UltraRunningScienceReview

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Data source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ searched for the term „ultra running“ and filtered to list only free full texts (so that everyone can read the full-texts). These hits are listed below (starting beginning 2021) and for a few of them the content is described to let you know what is in and why you may want to read it. Keep in mind that this my personal opinion in the Personal Summary section and it is only a brief, probably too reduced and sometimes even misleading information – you better read the article. The purpose is to update and introduce you to what is published about our sport and to raise your interest in reading science about running. Any questions – feel free to ask. This site will be constantly but irregularly updated with new entries – it is sorted with the newest publications on top. If you want to select an article for a deep review we can easily schedule journal clubs via online meetings – let me know!

2021:

  • 26 free full texts under the search term „ultra running“ are available so far – 19 of them about running (update: July 2021):

Cortical and Subcortical Brain Volume Alterations Following Endurance Running at 38.6 km and 119.2 km in Male Athletes
Ozdurak Singin RH, Duz S, Kiraz M. Cortical and Subcortical Brain Volume Alterations Following Endurance Running at 38.6 km and 119.2 km in Male Athletes. Med Sci Monit. 2021 Jun 22;27:e926060. doi: 10.12659/MSM.926060. PMID: 34155188; PMCID: PMC8234558.
Personal Summary:
Influence of running and ultra-running on volumetric change of cortical and subcortical brain structures. The paper presents first hints that several brain regions undergo a volume increase during ultra running. The long-term effects of these need to be further studied. It may be a positive effect that compensates for age/stress-related volume decrease of these regions. But as said these are only first hints.

The Optimal Ambient Conditions for World Record and World Class Performances at the Berlin Marathon
Scheer V, Valero D, Villiger E, Alvero Cruz JR, Rosemann T, Knechtle B. The Optimal Ambient Conditions for World Record and World Class Performances at the Berlin Marathon. Front Physiol. 2021 May 28;12:654860. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.654860. PMID: 34122130; PMCID: PMC8194270.
Personal Summary:
Berlin Marathon and weather conditions again – title says it all. Men: 18.61°C (p > 0.05), sunny, mostly dry days, with higher atmospheric pressure and little cloud cover. Women: 13.07°C (p > 0.05), with low atmospheric pressure (p > 0.05), but significantly more rain (p < 0.05), and with no sunshine (p < 0.05) and cloud cover (p < 0.05). You better check the weather forecast in Berlin!

3.0 T MRI findings of 104 hips of asymptomatic adults: from non-runners to ultra-distance runners
Horga LM, Henckel J, Fotiadou A, Di Laura A, Hirschmann A, Hart A. 3.0 T MRI findings of 104 hips of asymptomatic adults: from non-runners to ultra-distance runners. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2021 May 21;7(2):e000997. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000997. PMID: 34104474; PMCID: PMC8144041.
Personal Summary:
Influence of running on the hip joints of non-active, medium-active and high-active runners. There are no significant differences between these groups indicating that lots of running may not add further damage to your hip joints.

Relationship of Carbohydrate Intake during a Single-Stage One-Day Ultra-Trail Race with Fatigue Outcomes and Gastrointestinal Problems: A Systematic Review.
Arribalzaga S, Viribay A, Calleja-González J, et al. Relationship of Carbohydrate Intake during a Single-Stage One-Day Ultra-Trail Race with Fatigue Outcomes and Gastrointestinal Problems: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021 May;18(11). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18115737.
Personal Summary:
Review about how much of carbohydrates you should consume during single-stage one-day ultra-trail races, the strategies to do so as well as the consequences and factors interacting with eating during racing. Long read as it summarises multiple other studies. Looks like the best idea is to eat „enough“ – it will help you during and after the race. May be an interesting read for those of you who are aiming for peak performances and streamlining your supply strategies.

From Athens to Sparta-37 Years of Spartathlon
Knechtle B, Gomes M, Scheer V, Gajda R, Nikolaidis PT, Hill L, Rosemann T, Sousa CV. From Athens to Sparta-37 Years of Spartathlon. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 May 5;18(9):4914. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18094914. PMID: 34063017; PMCID: PMC8124832.
Personal Summary:
Analysis of 37 years of Spartathlon performances by age groups and sex. There is an overall tendency to faster finishing times for the top athletes and if you want to find out the best age to run this race – these statistics will give you the answer.

Trends in Weather Conditions and Performance by Age Groups Over the History of the Berlin Marathon
Knechtle B, Valero D, Villiger E, Alvero-Cruz JR, Nikolaidis PT, Cuk I, Rosemann T, Scheer V. Trends in Weather Conditions and Performance by Age Groups Over the History of the Berlin Marathon. Front Physiol. 2021 May 13;12:654544. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.654544. PMID: 34054573; PMCID: PMC8155689.
Personal Summary:
Analysis of 45 years of Berlin Marathon and the influence of weather conditions (temperature, wind, barometric pressure, precipitation) on running performance. Nice, huge data set for everyone interested in what weather really does. The overall tendencies are kind of expected – the best results are to be gained when the weather is colder with no rain.

What Is the Best Discipline to Predict Overall Triathlon Performance? An Analysis of Sprint, Olympic, Ironman ® 70.3, and Ironman ® 140.6
Sousa CV, Aguiar S, Olher RR, Cunha R, Nikolaidis PT, Villiger E, Rosemann T, Knechtle B. What Is the Best Discipline to Predict Overall Triathlon Performance? An Analysis of Sprint, Olympic, Ironman® 70.3, and Ironman® 140.6. Front Physiol. 2021 May 5;12:654552. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.654552. PMID: 34025447; PMCID: PMC8131838.
Personal Summary:
For those who are doing triathlon. The overall conclusion is: for each of the listed triathlon distances another discipline is the best predictor: Sprint (cycling), Olympic (swimming), IM 70.3 (cycling), IM 140.6 (running). Looks like that running performance becomes more and more crucial and predictive when the distance is getting longer.

Kinetics and Topology of DNA Associated with Circulating Extracellular Vesicles Released during Exercise
Neuberger EWI, Hillen B, Mayr K, Simon P, Krämer-Albers EM, Brahmer A. Kinetics and Topology of DNA Associated with Circulating Extracellular Vesicles Released during Exercise. Genes (Basel). 2021 Apr 2;12(4):522. doi: 10.3390/genes12040522. PMID: 33918465; PMCID: PMC8065814.
Personal Summary:
This one is for the biologists amongst the runners. For those who are interested in the mechanisms of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) release into plasma and the role of extracellular vesicles (EVs) in that process it is an interesting read. The connection to running: exercising increases levels of cfDNA and EVs in plasma.

Musculoskeletal Injuries in Ultra-Endurance Running: A Scoping Review
Scheer V, Krabak BJ. Musculoskeletal Injuries in Ultra-Endurance Running: A Scoping Review. Front Physiol. 2021 Mar 31;12:664071. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.664071. PMID: 33868030; PMCID: PMC8044296.
Personal Summary:
Review of article on the most common injuries during a wide variety of ultra endurance events. This is interesting. There are different injury patterns when comparing multi day vs. single day events and when comparing short and long continues events. If you read this carefully you already know which kind of injury will hit you most likely.

Heat Acclimatization, Cooling Strategies, and Hydration during an Ultra-Trail in Warm and Humid Conditions
Bouscaren N, Faricier R, Millet GY, Racinais S. Heat Acclimatization, Cooling Strategies, and Hydration during an Ultra-Trail in Warm and Humid Conditions. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 26;13(4):1085. doi: 10.3390/nu13041085. PMID: 33810371; PMCID: PMC8065615.
Personal Summary:
This one is about strategies on how to prepare for hot and humid races and about the different hydration strategies during such a race (survey-based taken during Grand Raid de la Réunion). So if you are interested in these kind of running events it may be worth a look to understand what most of your fellow runners do. The average planned hydration volume was 663 ± 240 mL/h – interesting.

Epicardial Adipose Tissue and Cardiovascular Risk Assessment in Ultra-Marathon Runners: A Pilot Study
Konwerski M, Postuła M, Barczuk-Falęcka M, Czajkowska A, Mróz A, Witek K, Bakalarski W, Gąsecka A, Małek ŁA, Mazurek T. Epicardial Adipose Tissue and Cardiovascular Risk Assessment in Ultra-Marathon Runners: A Pilot Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 18;18(6):3136. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18063136. PMID: 33803664; PMCID: PMC8002849.
Personal Summary:
„In summary, extremely intensive training may decrease the risk of cardiovascular events in adult population of amateur athletes by reducing the amount and pro-inflammatory activity of EAT.“ Looks like it is also doing something good after all…

Influence of Psychological Factors on the Success of the Ultra-Trail Runner
Méndez-Alonso D, Prieto-Saborit JA, Bahamonde JR, Jiménez-Arberás E. Influence of Psychological Factors on the Success of the Ultra-Trail Runner. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 8;18(5):2704. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18052704. PMID: 33800167; PMCID: PMC7967426.
Personal Summary:
Pre- and post-race questionnaires: data were collected regarding mental toughness, resilience, and passion. Resilience and mental strength are key factors in the effort of completing long distance races.

Effects of medium- and long-distance running on cardiac damage markers in amateur runners: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and metaregression
Rubio-Arias JÁ, Andreu L, Martínez-Aranda LM, Martínez-Rodríguez A, Manonelles P, Ramos-Campo DJ. Effects of medium- and long-distance running on cardiac damage markers in amateur runners: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and metaregression. J Sport Health Sci. 2021 Mar;10(2):192-200. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2019.10.003. Epub 2019 Dec 27. PMID: 33742602; PMCID: PMC7987568.
Personal Summary:
Review. The conclusion is „Endurance running races induce the release of cardiac-damage markers that remain elevated for at least 24 h after the races“ – if you are interested in what you are doing to your body it may be worth a read.

Performance determinants, running energetics and spatiotemporal gait parameters during a treadmill ultramarathon
Howe CCF, Swann N, Spendiff O, Kosciuk A, Pummell EKL, Moir HJ. Performance determinants, running energetics and spatiotemporal gait parameters during a treadmill ultramarathon. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2021 Jun;121(6):1759-1771. doi: 10.1007/s00421-021-04643-2. Epub 2021 Mar 11. PMID: 33704547; PMCID: PMC8144128.
Personal Summary:
Investigation of metabolic variables running energetics and spatiotemporal gait parameters during a 50 mile treadmill run. Whoever is interested in fine-tuning his/her body for such an effort and wants to know before if it is going to be likely that a new WR is possible should read this. If you are able to maintain a high fractional utilisation of your O2max and to minimise an increase of your energy cost of running it is worth an attempt.

Training and Racing Behavior of Recreational Runners by Race Distance-Results From the NURMI Study (Step 1)
Knechtle B, Tanous DR, Wirnitzer G, Leitzmann C, Rosemann T, Scheer V, Wirnitzer K. Training and Racing Behavior of Recreational Runners by Race Distance-Results From the NURMI Study (Step 1). Front Physiol. 2021 Feb 4;12:620404. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.620404. PMID: 33613312; PMCID: PMC7890117.
Personal Summary:
Survey-based study on non-professional runners study that answer questions like: How is training effort influenced by race distance? Who is looking for personal trainers – the long or the short distance runner? When is the most popular time in the year to run races?

Predictors of Athlete’s Performance in Ultra-Endurance Mountain Races
Belinchón-deMiguel P, Ruisoto P, Knechtle B, Nikolaidis PT, Herrera-Tapias B, Clemente-Suárez VJ. Predictors of Athlete’s Performance in Ultra-Endurance Mountain Races. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 22;18(3):956. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18030956. PMID: 33499204; PMCID: PMC7908619.
Personal Summary:
Questionnair-based assessment of the variables race time and training, hydration state, nutrition, oral health status, and stress-related psychological in ultrarunning events with the key findings that higher performances are associated with better oral health status and higher D+ training – in longer races factors like experience and well balanced nutrition before the race are becoming more important as well.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Endurance and Ultra-Endurance Running
Scheer V, Valero D, Villiger E, Rosemann T, Knechtle B. The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Endurance and Ultra-Endurance Running. Medicina (Kaunas). 2021 Jan 9;57(1):52. doi: 10.3390/medicina57010052. PMID: 33435292; PMCID: PMC7827107.
Personal Summary:
Main data source for ultra-endurance running (UER) event statistic was the DUV statistic website we all know and love. The paper describes the devastating influence of the pandemic on (marathon) and UER events within the COVID-19 pandemic. There are statistics of the decrease listed for various distances. The overall reduction in finishers in the time period March 2020 – October 2020 (compared to March 2019 – October 2019) ranges between 70-85%. The questions is raised wether or not we will see all events coming back but also highlights that the number of infections associated with UER events is really low. May be interesting for race directors to read as it highlights that future events will need to think about a suitable security concept.

An Analysis of Participation and Performance of 2067 100-km Ultra-Marathons Worldwide
Stöhr A, Nikolaidis PT, Villiger E, Sousa CV, Scheer V, Hill L, Knechtle B. An Analysis of Participation and Performance of 2067 100-km Ultra-Marathons Worldwide. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 6;18(2):362. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020362. PMID: 33418867; PMCID: PMC7825131.
Personal Summary:
Title says it all – really interesting read about the 100 km performances. Number of events are rising, number of finishers as well. The running speed in the oldest age group of finishers (70+) increase of the decade – there performance gap between the sexes is the smallest in young and old age groups. Lots of statistics with interesting insights into 100 km performances.

Participation and Performance Trends in the ITU Duathlon World Championship From 2003 to 2017
Nikolaidis PT, Villiger E, Knechtle B. Participation and Performance Trends in the ITU Duathlon World Championship From 2003 to 2017. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Apr 1;35(4):1127-1133. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002851. PMID: 30363036.
Personal Summary:
This is about tendencies in performance metrics (e.g. running speed) linked to sex, age, etc. in duathlon and ultra running events.