We all know that running is great, but how important is it in other sports? All professional athletes are likely doing some form of run training to keep fit and game-ready, but we want to know how far everyone is running per game or match.
The Rugby World Cup is underway at the moment, and the players in these games will be covering some pretty long distances in their 80-minute matches throughout the tournament. On average, rugby players will cover about seven kilometres each game. The field is 100 metres long and 70 metres wide, so that is a lot of running back and forth across the field and from goalpost to goalpost. Granted, this does not mean players will be running nonstop for 80 minutes. One study found that rugby players spend 70 per cent of a match standing or walking, 25 per cent jogging and five per cent sprinting. Over the course of the match, players averaged 750 changes of pace. That’s a lot of starting and stopping in the span of 80 minutes.
Like rugby, soccer involves a lot of standing, walking and waiting for the right time to pick up the pace. In a 90-minute match, players cover between eight and 10 kilometres. Over the course of a tournament like the World Cup, in which a team can play up to seven games, an individual could run over 70 kilometres if their team makes it all the way to the finals. Even more staggering are the speeds that some players manage to reach while sprinting in games. Welshman Gareth Bale has recorded a speed of 36.9 kph, and at the 2018 World Cup, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo maxed out at 34 kph. On the women’s side, in the 2015 World Cup (which was held in Canada), Ali Krieger of the United States hit 34.7 kph in the final game of the tournament.
The court may be tiny, but tennis players manage to cover a lot of distance when chasing that fuzzy yellow ball. Depending on their style of play, players can run anywhere from two to close to five kilometres in a five-set match. By the final of the 2012 Australian Open between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, they had covered over 25 and 22 kilometres respectively for the entire tournament. In the women’s U.S. Open in 2014, Carolina Wozniacki had already run close to 10 kilometres entering the final against Serena Williams, who had only covered 4.5 kilometres herself. It’s no wonder that newly-crowned U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu worked on run-specific workouts to get in shape for her historic 2019 season.
Depending on the position, an NBA player will run between three and four kilometres per game. From 2016 to 2018, Portland Trailblazers guard CJ McCollum led the league in distance covered, travelling over 330 kilometres in each of these seasons, including 346 kilometres in 2018. Basketball is an explosive game, with sudden bursts of speed as players attempt to drive to the basket while their opponents try to guard them. Much of this is lateral movement, as well as back pedalling. (By the way, the average height of NBA players is six feet seven inches. Imagine being that tall and having to start, stop and sprint for 82 games a year.)
NFL players are fast, there’s no doubt about it. When a player gets going and has open field in front of him, he can really fly, sometimes reaching speeds above 30 kph. Due to the structure of the game and the variety of positions, however, the average distance covered in a game is quite low. Cornerbacks and wide receivers run the most in a game, but they only average about two kilometres in total. The other players—like quarterbacks, linemen and kickers—run much less.
Even though none of these athletes can match a distance runner’s mileage, we’re still pretty impressed by their overall tallies. Too bad they can’t upload their post-game data to Strava.