“Amateur” VS. “Professional” Runners

“Amateur” VS. “Professional” Runners

In recent years, running has gained popularity rapidly, and the public is involved in it. Among them, there are many talented, potential runners who want to run "full-time" and make a living by "running", especially after seeing many amateur "great runners" run well. However, after seeing the excellent results of mass runners, some people began to question the standards of professional runners.

So, is the level of professional runners really that easy to be challenged? In other words, is the difference between professional and amateur runners in marathons not as big as in other games?

#The Amount

Most of the mass runners run for physical fitness. The daily running distance is between 3 km to 5 km, and a few mass runners’ monthly running distances are more than 100 km. Among these few, those who are passionate about running may run 100-300 km, while those who are amateurs or marathon enthusiasts may run 300-500 km. Only a very small percentage of amateur runners run more than 700 km per month.

How about pros?

We recently visited the Guizhou team for the answer. For example, the effective running distances of the weekly schedule for adjusting is 173 km, and it pays attention to the effectiveness of run quantity. This means the mileage of the formal training, not including warm-up before running and jogging relaxation mileage after. However, if all of the mileage is added to every training, the weekly running distance would be 180-190 km. And it’s not a problem to run 700 km a month, and on average they run 25 km a day.

Notice that it’s only for the adjustment week. Adjustment week means allowing the runners to return to the adjustment condition. If it’s normal training, this amount will be more. They also reported that during the winter training, the weekly running amount of the Guizhou marathon team for each runner is 280 - 290 km, which means the training amount is close to 40 km every day. Also, the men and women trained about the same amount (the only difference was running at different paces).

This is the "amount" of a professional athlete -- not including physical training and light strength training.

 #Intensity of training

The pace of ordinary runners varies from 6 to 8 min per km, which may be slower than this. The pace of better runners varies from 4 to 5 minutes per km, and those who run more than 10 km with 3 to 4 minutes per km are amateurs.

What about professional runners? Professional runners typically train 2 times a day, with higher intensity in the morning, doing specific workouts or aerobic jogs. And they train less in the afternoon, usually doing a relaxed run.

Again, taking the Guizhou Team as an example, the pace of the aerobic jogging schedule in the morning of the week was basically between 3:30 and 3:50, with a distance of 18-20 km. The pace of the relaxed jogging was less than 5 minutes, mostly around 4:30, and they ran 8-10 km.

It means that at the pace of 4 minutes per km, most amateur runners need to insist on their teeth to reach this score, but for professional athletes, it’s only a relaxed jog. 

When professional athletes especially marathon runners run special courses, the coach requires them to run 20 km at the pace of 3:15 per km, with about 64 minutes to finish. The pace works out to about 3:12 seconds per km. The pace of 3:12 per km, corresponded to the time of the 5000 meters in 16 minutes, the men's 5000 meters national level 2. This means that they run 4 times of 5000 meters national level 2 in just one lesson.

Moreover, the training of 20 km in 3 min 12 sec is not all of this lesson -- after completing 20 kilometers, there is 4 km to run, requiring a pace of about 3 min 5 sec. And the fastest runners can take less than 12 minutes with the pace at 2 min 58-59 sec. Thus the training intensity of professional athletes can be seen.


In this regard, we do not take the results of the world's top athletes as examples, like the world record holder Erud Kipchoge who can finish a marathon in 2 hr 01 min 39 sec. But we are familiar with domestic professional athletes -- Jianhua Peng, Guojian Dong, Shaohui Yang, etc with a marathon PB of 2 hr 8-9 min on average, and the finish time of domestic elite athletes is basically within 2 hr 20 min. What about the results of the mass runners? 

According to the "2019 China Marathon Blue Book" data released by the Chinese Athletics Association, the average marathon score of Chinese runners in 2019 is 4:25:40, of which the average score of male runners is 4:22:11, and the average score of female runners is 4:41: 58. With the difference of 2 hours, it can be said that most of the mass players have just finished half of the race when professional athletes have already finished the race. In fact, in many halfway and whole way races where the finish line is together, one of the scenes often seen is that the mass players from the half-way group and the professional players from the whole-way group cross the line together.


Regardless of the amount of training, the intensity of training, or the competition performance, professional players have maintained a very high level, not individually, but collectively. However, on various social networks, there are still many doubts about professional players, especially in the context of amateur players being able to run into the 220 marks. Why? 

  1. The survivors are biased, and the majority was represented by the minority. People only witnessed a very small number of extremely good amateur runners who ran into the 220 or even 215 marks but ignored the broader group behind them. It should be noted that only a few of them have unusual talents, and many of them have received professional training.
  2. Insufficient understanding and attention to professional players. Most of the channels for the public to obtain information are various media and social networks, but these platforms are more focused on athletes lead the way, and the middle levels are actually less exposed relatively.
  3. Most professional players rarely participate in commercial competitions. They participate more in systematic competitions, and the environment is relatively closed, thus reducing the exposure. As the saying goes, “Don’t use your own hobbies to challenge other people’s jobs.” Whether it is a professional or an amateur “great runner”, when someone is defined as a professional runner, they will be compared with ordinary interest-oriented mass runners. After all, hobbies and means of livelihood are different, and there is no “idle job” in a professional running career.

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