Running 200 miles in the mountains is easy

Report by Paul Vousden
Friday 28th June 2013

In recent years sport scientists have been paying quite a bit of attention to ultra endurance events. This recent study from the University of Oueensland analysed 25 runners in the Tor des Géants (TdG) 2011, and found that the imapct on the body is not as extreme as shorter races. 

The epic single stage mountain race is 330km with 24000m vertical in the Italian alps. Somewhat similar to French Petit Trot a Leon (PTL), which is interesting because the study compared the results with a similer study made at the 100 mile Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB). The PTL is the big brother of the UTMB, and anyone having competed there will have seen the fatigued faces of the teams of 3 crossing the finish time about the same time, having set of 3 days earlier. 

The comparison is significant because the key difference other than the obvious distance and ascent, is the introduction of sleep deprivation. Of course; they covered the variables well, and used similar top athleates, but only 9 of the 25 subjects actually finished the race. 

However, what the study showed was that the longer event actually  showed Less muscle damage, fewer inflammation markers and a less-altered neuromuscular function. What this means that if you factor out the risk of injury due to being exposed to the risk for longer, then if you finish the event injury free, thaen you should feel less fatigued, and recover faster from running the longer 200 mile race than the shorter 100 mile race. 

Unsurprisingly, the authors suggest that this finding is probably due to the pacing strategy of the longer race being slower,  and that the sleep deprivation actually preserves the neuro muscular function. Meaning that at the start of the race you consciously go slower, and as you get sleep deprived you find it harder to make your muscles work harder anyway. 

Having competed in both the PTL and the UTMB this study left me thinking that a major omission had been made. 100 hours of 'running' messes with your sanity.  Probably in a way that cant be measured....


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