On Soccer Players and Marathons
While waiting for the media to finish up at training today, Bryan Namoff was muttering to himself about Gros's fitness, calling him "the fittest man alive" and "the energizer bunny" and so on. I asked for clarification.
"It's unfair, the genetics that he has," Namoff said. "It's unfair. He misses some games, misses training, and can come right back."
"I don't even need training, just show up on Saturdays," Gros joked.
"He doesn't even need to stretch," Namoff said. "He could wake up and play 90 minutes. Not even a warmup."
"I have to go through what the team does, but when the team stretches I'll just be walking around," Gros explained. "I hate stretching."
I asked where such genes came from; "It's just that good blood, I guess, just good Pennsylvania Dutch blood," Gros said.
So then I wondered whether he could run a marathon, like, tomorrow.
In other words, whether his level of supreme soccer fitness would translate over 26.2 miles. I was immediately laughed at; everyone said that yes, without a doubt, Josh Gros could run a marathon tomorrow without any additional training.
"Are you kidding? He could kill a marathon," Namoff said.
"I could go this afternoon," Gros said, and this time, he wasn't joking.
"Any of these guys could run a marathon," said United VP of Communications Doug Hicks, who has actually run one himself.
Then we all talked about just how far a soccer player runs during 90 minutes. Gros said 5-8 miles. Someone else said 10 kilometers, perhaps thinking of the figure used to track Gennaro Gattuso's travels during a Champions League match earlier this year. (Carl Bialik of the WSJ has an interesting explanation of where that number came from.) This PhD says 10k for European games, and a bit less for South American games.
Still, whether players who are trained to be fit for 10k in 90 minutes--along with all the contact and skill involved--could necessarily run a marathon without further training is unclear to me, although I guess the answer is likely yes.
"We were just talking about that at dinner the other day," said Ben Olsen, when I asked whether he could run 26.2. "Right now? Like if I had a day off and I just went and ran a marathon? Probably, I might be able to get through it, but the last couple miles I'd be walking," and here he imitated that painful end-of-marathon shuffle you often see around mile 23.
Olsen also speculated about his teammates; "well, [Gros] could do it and maybe break a record," he said. "Namoff, I don't know. He'd have to have [head athletic trainer Brian Goodstein] there to stretch him."
"I couldn't do it without an hour of stretching," Namoff agreed.
"Last year I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and then I played a game later that day," Gros said, I guess joking again, although I wouldn't doubt it.
"You know, I'm going to do it when I'm done," Olsen announced. "I'm going to find [a marathon] right when I retire, and the next one, I'm going to do without training."
So here are my questions, because I have no doubt many of you are experienced both with playing soccer and running marathons:
1) Could every D.C. United player run a marathon next weekend without any additional training? What sort of finishing time would we be talking about?
2) Could every, say, Washington Redskin or Washington Wizard or Washington Capital or Washington National do the same? Excluding Dmitri Young?
3) I'll grant everyone's insistence that Gros absolutely could do so, but how long would it take him? Hicks thinks Gros would break three hours his first time out.
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