This weekend saw thousands of people pounding the streets in the 34th London Marathon. The 26.2 mile course, which winds through the streets of London, is the pinnacle of many people's sporting achievements, but we wondered how the distance covered by elite hockey players during a tournament such as the Rabobank Hockey World Cup measures up in comparison?
Figures outlining exactly how far a hockey player travels over the course of a hockey match varies quite dramatically depending upon a number of factors. The ability to roll players on and off the pitch means that you are unlikely to see any player, with the exception of the goalkeeper, playing an entire 70 minutes. The distance covered by a player will also vary according to position, defenders are less likely to clock up the miles than a midfielder, for instance.
But, some general figures do give us a feel for how far a hockey player can expect to run. International level midfielders generally cover the greatest average distance, regularly reaching 9km/game, although research has shown that forwards in hockey also regularly reach this distance. Defenders run significantly less in hockey, averaging around 6-7km per game. Hockey goalkeepers tend to cover about 2km on average, hardly surprising as they rarely leave their goal circle, but impressive when you consider that most of their movements are short, explosive sprints that sap the energy quickly.
What of course is very different between hockey players and endurance runners is the intensity of the running. Where a marathon runner will be running at a steady pace over the entire course, hockey players will be working at a variety of intensity levels. He or she will be sprinting after a ball, chasing back with an opponent, running onto a pass or speeding up to get past a defender. When not directly involved in the game, the players will be moving into the best position to support play. Research conducted using the Australian men's squad during a Champions Trophy match found that during the game, more than half of the movement by midfielders and forwards was classified high speed running, or sprinting, meaning that if a player runs a total of 9km during a game, he or she will be sprinting approximately 4.5kms.
Over the course of the Rabobank Hockey World Cup, the players will be competing in a maximum of seven games, which if they are a midfielder or forward will mean approximately 63km of running, of which 31.5kms will be at high speed. Even the goalkeepers will be competing a half marathon over the course of the tournament.
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