Ultramarathon Runners: Nature or Nurture?

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Ultramarathon running is increasingly popular. An ultramarathon is defined as a running event involving distances longer than the length of a traditional marathon of 42.195 km. In ultramarathon races, ~80% of the finishers are men. Ultramarathoners are typically ~45 y old and achieve their fastest running times between 30 and 49 y for men, and between 30 and 54 y for women. Most probably, ultrarunners start with a marathon before competing in an ultramarathon. In ultramarathoners, the number of previously completed marathons is significantly higher than the number of completed marathons in marathoners. However, recreational marathoners have a faster personal-best marathon time than ultramarathoners. Successful ultramarathoners have 7.6 ± 6.3 y of experience in ultrarunning. Ultramarathoners complete more running kilometers in training than marathoners do, but they run more slowly during training than marathoners. To summarize, ultramarathoners are master runners, have a broad experience in running, and prepare differently for an ultramarathon than marathoners do. However, it is not known what motivates male ultramarathoners and where ultramarathoners mainly originate. Future studies need to investigate the motivation of male ultramarathoners, where the best ultramarathoners originate, and whether they prepare by competing in marathons before entering ultramarathons.

The author is with the Institute of General Practice and for Health Services Research, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

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