Running vs. Cycling: A Cyclist's Perspective

This is more of a personal blog for me. Growing up, the notion that running was terrible for cyclists was a popular one. I believed that cyclists were finely tuned racing bike athletes who couldn't possibly engage in anything else. But times have changed – the likes of Michael Woods, Tom Pidcock, Wout Van Aert, and Mathieu Van Der Poel have shown that embracing both sports is not only acceptable but also beneficial.


A bit of background

Since retiring from cycling, I embarked on a running journey. During my first winter of retirement, skiing, drinking, and preparing for the London Marathon became my main activities. To cut a long story short, I finished the marathon in 3 hours 23 minutes, which isn’t on par with my cycling ability levels, but commendable nonetheless.

Spending significant time in New Zealand pushed me further into running, and unexpectedly, I found myself really enjoying it. Now, I think I could even achieve a personal best if I were to run a marathon.

Along the way, I've clocked a 40-minute 10K, a 17.59 5K, and a 1-hour 34-minute half marathon – although, let's just say there was a pit stop due to an incident best not explored deeply.

During this time, I’ve noticed quite a few differences between the two sports and I’d like to share them with you.


The big differences

Joints: When I rode Paris Roubaix four times, I felt soreness in my elbows, wrists, and fingers as a cyclist. However, running was a different story—it made my ankles, knees, toes, and hips ache during and after. The impact was significant and unlike cycling, this discomfort hasn't lessened over time. I've wondered if a runner's weight could affect their injury rate, not in terms of losing a few kilograms, but regarding the correlation between weight, bone density, and ligament strength.

For instance, would heavier runners like Nairo Quintana and Fillipo Ganna be more prone to injury despite their peak physical condition? This is purely speculative as I'm not a medical expert, but it’s interesting to think about.

Training: The fundamentals in both sports – endurance, VO2 max, threshold work, and intervals – show remarkable similarities. However, technical training differs significantly.

Recovery: Running demands recovery from various physical strains compared to cycling, where recovery mostly revolves around cardiovascular and muscular strain.

Time: Running is incredibly time-efficient. In my pro cycling days, less than an hour of biking wasn't worth the preparation. However, with running, I feel I can push myself and achieve something substantial in just 20-30 minutes. Similarly, in cycling, I consider an endurance ride to be over three hours, but in running, anything beyond an hour feels like an endurance effort to me. (Runners, feel free to share your thoughts and correct me if I'm wrong!)

Social Aspect: Cycling wins in social aspects, primarily due to time and cafe culture. Running doesn’t easily accommodate chatting while doing it.

Downhill: Downhill running matches the challenge of flat or uphill running, whereas downhill cycling is an exhilarating experience.

Technique Training: Technique training is more significant in running compared to cycling, especially off-road. On-road cycling may involve some cornering techniques, but not on the same scale as running.

Injuries: Runners tend to face more running-related niggles, while cycling injuries are sporadic but potentially more severe.

Cost: The cost comparison between top-tier equipment is noteworthy. Running gear's top-notch shoes are relatively affordable, whereas cycling's top-end setups involve significant costs.

Nutrition: Running’s nutritional strategies differ from cycling’s due to the duration of events, reflecting varying needs in carbohydrate intake.

The Park Run and the Club 10: Voluntary, semi-competitive events like Park Runs and Club 10 have a warm community spirit, focusing on inclusivity and positive encouragement. Both events offer a similar distance, whether it's a 5km run or a 10-mile bike ride. Competitive times are comparable, fostering a sense of individual achievement rather than competition.


Overall, from a cyclist's perspective

These experiences have shed light on the nuanced comparison between running and cycling from a cyclist's standpoint. Both sports offer unique challenges and rewards, contributing to a well-rounded athletic experience. But above all, both will have the best of humanity there if you need to restore your faith.

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