Obsessed with length?

We are obsessed with length …….Long is good isn’t it? But longer can hurt especially if you try to take on too much too soon without giving the body time to adjust and become accustomed to it. Men will boast about length but women can be fearful of their ability to manage it.  But even our own capabilities can surprise us.. Men will measure and re-measure, in need of reassurance, they may even want to compare. Whereas women are less transparent and will save their thoughts for only their closest allies. Some will even invest heavily in equipment and gear to achieve greater length, with others even going as far as to seek drug enhancement. But it is worth it if it allows runners achieve their goal of running greater distances than they have ever run before!

The increasing number of races and events that let people test their stamina over courses of 50 plus miles is testament to the growing popularity of ultra running. Any running race longer than a marathon (42 km, 26.2 miles) is considered an ultra marathon(Knechtle, 2012). In North America alone, 15,500 people finished such ultra races in 1998 and more than 63,500 individuals in 2012 (van der Wall, 2014). There are many runners for whom the marathon is not enough.Ultra-running is nothing new, the annual London to Brighton run started in the 1950s. The Marathon des Sables, a 156-mile event over six days in the Sahara, started in 1986, while California’s Western States 100 dates back to 1974. The Annual Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race is the longest certified footrace in the world. Athletes are able to test themselves in a format unlike any other ultra-marathon event. They must average 59.6 miles per day, running these miles in an 18-hour daily format- for 52 straight days – in order to reach 3100 miles. Starting on eighty-fourth Avenue, in Queens At 6A.M., the course runs around the block passing a playground, some houses, and a technical high school. After completing a lap of half a mile, it returns to the starting point. It takes five thousand six hundred and forty-nine laps to cover the total of thirty-one hundred miles.


Many believe that the definitive act of self–denial and the road to enlightenment is through physical exertion and pain. The main difference between marathons and ultramarathons is the time spent on the feet – it hurts, the suffering and fatigue is considerably worse and must be tolerated for far longer.  Fatigue during running is the feeling of pain that makes you want to stop and give up.  The causes of this exhaustion are multifaceted, both burning muscles and the mind contribute. Insufficient willpower may lead to the perception of fatigue and subsequent failure. The brain convinces the body that it is no longer possible to put one foot in front of the other. So, it no surprise that the time gaps between women and men narrow as races get longer. Women are reducing the time gap for these distances that last 24 – 144 hours(Zingg et al., 2015). Women perceive similar levels of exercise as less traumatic than do men, basically women are just tougher and are better able to deal with length (Koltyn et al., 1991).


Knechtle B. (2012). Ultramarathon runners: nature or nurture? Int J Sports Physiol Perform 7, 310-312.


Koltyn KF, O’Connor PJ & Morgan WP. (1991). Perception of effort in female and male competitive swimmers. Int J Sports Med 12, 427-429.


van der Wall EE. (2014). Long-distance running: running for a long life? Neth Heart J 22, 89-90.


Zingg MA, Knechtle B, Rosemann T & Rust CA. (2015). Performance differences between sexes in 50-mile to 3,100-mile ultramarathons. Open Access J Sports Med 6, 7-21.

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