Running one hundred miles in a single race sounds like a lot, to put it mildly. (“Insane” is another word that comes to mind.) But for the elite few who are capable of completing one of these grueling courses, adding on another hundred miles may actually make the task easier.
At least that’s according to a new study of runners in the 2011 Tor des Géants, a 200-mile mountain ultramarathon through the Italian Alps.
A team of European researchers examined 15 runners pre-, mid- and post-race for different markers of muscle damage, fatigue and inflammation. For comparison there was a control group of non-runners who followed a similar schedule of sleep deprivation to the competitors. After collecting data from all the runners, they found—no surprise—that the Tor des Géants runners had more muscle strain than the control group.
But when they compared their results to a similar study of ultramarathon runners in a 100-mile race, the researchers found that the 100-mile racers had more muscle strain than the 200-mile race participants. The runners had slowed to adapt to the distance, and the extreme length made resting mandatory. These helped protect the muscles from injury. So 200 miles is, in some ways, easier on the body.