Runners who complete one of the world’s most difficult ultra-marathons experience less neuromuscular fatigue, inflammation, and muscle damage than those who run distances half to one quarter as long.

The finding came from new research published in PLoS One and was conducted by Jonas Saugy and team from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

For the purpose of the investigation, experts analyzed twenty-five male athletes before, during, and about 30 minutes after the race.

The race, known as the Tor des Geants, is an over 200-mile mountain ultramarathon with 24,000 meters of positive and negative elevation change.

The researchers explained:

“Mountain ultra-endurance running has experienced considerable growth in recent years. These events consist of running/walking on mountain trails with positive and negative slopes over a distance longer than the traditional marathon. These extreme events are an opportunity to investigate the physiological responses of the human body when pushed to its limits.”

The impact of sleep deprivation as well as blood and muscle markers of inflammation in runners were examined.

Participants at Tor des Geants had fewer changes in neuromuscular functions, compared to runners who completed a shorter Alpine ultra-marathon approximately 103 miles in length.

The runners of the longer race also had lower levels of muscle damage and inflammation, despite the fact that they ran almost twice the distance as those in the other marathon.

The scientists concluded:

“Protective pacing strategies employed by these runners in the first half of the race, combined with sleep deprivation effects in the second half may induce a relative muscle preservation process.”

A previous study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that regular long-distance running can help prevent metabolic syndrome, a group of diseases that can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Written by Sarah Glynn