Frank Horwill



  • These articles were first published many year's ago and whilst some are as relevant today as they were when new, many are now mostly of historical interest as modern research and coaching methods have superseded them.

Getting It Right: Weight Relative to Height in Distance Running

By Frank Horwill

Most coaches use the Stillman height/weight ratio table for distance runners. The average man is allocated 110 lbs (50kg) for the first 5 feet (1.524m) in height. Thereafter, he is allocated 5½ lbs (2.495 kg) for every additional inch (O.025m) in height.

Thus, a man 6 feet tall (1.829m) would be allocated 110lbs (50kg) plus 12 x 5½lbs (2.495kg), which comes to 176 lbs or 12 st 8lbs (80kg). The exceptions to the rule are Japanese wrestlers, heavyweight boxers and certain rugby players, who aim to exceed this weight. Females are allocated 100 lbs (45kg) for the first 5 feet (1.524m) and 5lbs (2.268kg) for every inch thereafter. Therefore a woman who is 5 ft 6ins (1.676m) tall would be given 100 lbs plus 6 x 5lbs, which totals 130 lbs or 9st.4lbs (59kg).

These allocations are considered healthy guidelines for non-active people. However, a distance runner needs to weigh less, about 5 to 10 per cent less. This makes our 6 foot tall male requiring to be 8 to 17 lbs less than his 1761bs, around 168lbs to 159 lbs. And our female of 5ft 6ins should be around 6 lbs to 13lbs less, around 124 lbs to 117 lbs.

The key factor in successful distance running is your height : weight ratio. Now, that said, there are some golden rules with regard to this stipulation:


Runners should eat moderate-sized meals every four hours on the dot. Research has shown that this gives a greater physical output, greater resistance to the extremes of hot and cold weather, better acclimatisation to altitude training and more resistance to infections.


A runner who competes regularly from 10km to the marathon requires an above average intake of carbohydrates of the right sort. There are two types:- a) low glycemic b) high glycemic. The first are preferentially stored as glycogen the second get into the blood-stream quickly and are good to take 3 hours before training and within 30 minutes of completing training. It is a bad thing to rely on high glycemic foods 48 hours before a marathon. Concentrate on low glycemic carbs. Here is a list of some:


Glucose, honey, parsnips, carrots, white potatoes, bananas, raisins, white flour spaghetti, white rice, white flour pancakes, white bread.


Fructose (use sparingly), soya-beans, kidney beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, whole wheat spaghetti, oats, brown rice, buckwheat pancakes, whole wheat bread.


The more running you do in the morning the better. This will raise your resting metabolic rate for several hours afterwards and will burn more calories. Running in the evening reduces your metabolic rate and you burn less calories. This is why it’s a good idea to eat a big breakfast, and a bad idea to eat a big dinner. The first is burnt off quickly, the second is not.


If you are well over the Stillman stipulations, apart from Rule 3 stated, you need to eradicate certain foods from your diet, starting with bad oils, which are: peanut, cottonseed, palm, palm kernel and coconut. Good oils are: linseed, pumpkin seed, soyabean, walnut and canola.

Next come the worst ten fats containing 30 to 60 per cent fat:- beefburger, roast pork, bologna, frankfurters, roast beef, bacon, T-Bone steak, pork sausage, cheddar cheese, cream cheese. The following foods contain less than 5 per cent fat: cod, sole, halibut, flounder, lobster, crab, mussels, scallops, 1 per cent cottage cheese, turkey breast. Some shrimp, tuna, chicken breast, sardines, herrings, salmon, lamb or veal, ricotta cheese and eggs can be eaten every other day.


Again, if you want to reach your optimum racing weight: maintain 1-carnitine status, this causes fat to be burnt preferentially. It is found in avocados, tempeh (fermented soya bean product) and fat-free milk.


Maintain chromium status, this stops sugars going into fat. Use black pepper on all meals. It also can be obtained from sea-food.


Cut out sugar, it helps the formation of triglycerides (fats)


Eat a high fibre diet. It retards the digestion of sugars and fats. Oranges, lentils, mixed salad and oats, are high in fibre


Maintain omega3 fatty acids. This controls insulin metabolism, a common cause of obesity. It is found in cod, tuna, salmon, halibut, shark, and mackerel.

Faster through fasting! It’s a physiological fact that man can go three weeks without food and live! He can only go three days without water before dying. And if he gets no oxygen for three minutes he will suffocate. The writer went eight weeks without food and lived, although a drip provided water and electrolytes, he also spent most of his time in bed. Now, there is a difference between fasting and starving. The first is for a fixed period, which might range from 24 hours to 72 hours, once a week. The second is surviving, or trying to survive on a thousand calories or less a day for months on end. The latter practice is dangerous and idiotic. Such a regime will cause muscles to waste as the body steadily digests them. You cannot run without muscles. It can also lead to death from a heart attack. But if you feel that you are grossly overweight for running, fasting can bring about spectacular results. A 24 hour fast usually results in the loss of two pounds. A 5 day fast can result in a 10 pound reduction. No training should be done while fasting and pure orange juice should be drunk every three hours, as well as plenty of water. Some take a multi-vitamin tablet during a fast. Be wary after a fast not to engage in an orgy of gluttony. Observe Rules 1 to 9 carefully.

Now, if you think that two to ten pounds loss in weight isn’t going to improve performance – try this little experiment. Attach two to ten pounds in weight to your body and go for your usual 10-mile run. You will be struggling by half-way. Then, with ten pounds reduction in weight, note how much faster you do that 10-mile spin. The time to fast is at the weekend when you don’t have to bother about work. It’s a good idea to keep well occupied during a fast: sex is a good diversion as is going for long walks.

A 24 to 72 hour fast weekly for a month will transform your running performances and is well worth the effort. A reminder that fasting is for those who are over the Stillman stipulations for a non active person.

Ghandi, the great Hindu spiritual leader, said, "Starve the body and feed the soul." You may discover something new about yourself during a fast. The first eight hours are the worst. Once this time has passed it is plain sailing. Fasting is also said to cleanse the body of unwanted toxins.