What’s Harder: Cycling or Running? Jens Voigt Weighs In

Cycling vs Running: Which is Harder?

On April 9, I completed my first half marathon. I finished 15th in my age group with a time of 1:38 and got a hot bowl of delicious potato soup for finishing—not too shabby!

jens voigt half marathon finisher

And now that I’ve finished my very first half marathon, I can finally help to answer the age-old question: Who suffers more—cyclists or runners?

A marathon runner only runs a few marathons a year but it’s not uncommon for a professional cyclist to race 80 days.

On the other hand, because cyclists can draft off other riders and coast when going downhill, we don’t work hard every single meter of our bike races. In fact, we sometimes roll along inside the peloton without too much effort, which allows for some recovery time in the middle of the race. A runner, though, actually has to run and move his legs constantly; the second he stops moving his legs, he is literally standing still.

In terms of duration, a bike race can take up to seven hours, while a marathon is usually between two and four.

From the running I’ve done, it feels that my body needs a longer time to recover from a long run than a long ride. It is so much more intense—your joints and muscles have to work so much harder during a run. On the bike, your bodyweight is supported by the saddle and your bike helps to propel you forward. When you run, you have to support your bodyweight every single step and carry your whole body with every step. That takes so more out of you. Whereas cyclists can recover on downhills, the runner has to work even harder because of the negative g-forces.

To me, it feels like a one-hour run is equivalent to at least two hours on the bike. That said, I feel like nothing beats the devastating feeling of bonking at the end of a long bike race, when your body feels so empty that you can hardly turn the pedals and you feel like you won’t be able to finish the race.

Honestly, it’s almost impossible to compare cycling and running—as soon as you become serious and ambitious, every sport becomes hard. They both are beautiful and can be incredibly brutal. They are both very demanding but in different ways. And I like ‘em both!

I will keep biking and running because I love being active and fit. And isn’t that the ultimate goal? To stay fit and healthy?

So my friends, here is our new motto: Be fit. Be healthy. Be happy. (And always—shut up, legs!)

If we stick to that we will not only make ourselves happy but our family and friends as well. Our happiness will rub off on them, and there is nothing wrong with being happy and sharing some laughs and smiles, right?

So, let’s promise to staying happy and active. My next goal is to run a half marathon in less than 90 minutes. What’s yours?


Jens Voigt half marathon

Jens Voigt (right) with his best friend, Jens Wichmann

*Top photo courtesy of Elbdeichmarathon.

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