Kyle Johnston, Sales Director
On Saturday 20th February I will be taking part in my first ultra marathon, Last One Standing in support of the fantastic charity, Autism NI. My challenge is to run 100 miles over 24 hours. The run will consist of a 4.2 mile loop of Castle Ward, Co. Down, starting at mid-day on Saturday, with all competitors having to be back at the start to complete the next loop on the hour every hour. The race will continue until the last competitor has completed his or her final complete loop up to 48 hours later.
Sometime in the past couple of decades, the idea of running a marathon became less crazy, but for some people, a 26.2 mile marathon just isn’t long enough! Some athletes are turning to ultra-running, a sport that not long ago was considered the reclusive, funky-smelling cousin of traditional road racing.
I am by no means saying that a marathon is short or easy, but there are some huge differences between a marathon and an ultra marathon. It’s well known that marathons exert a serious toll on the body as it copes with the demands of running so far at such a pace. Post-race, the blood of a marathoner can paint a picture of diseased organs and biochemical decay thanks to compounds tossed off by the skeletal muscle, heart and liver such as troponin, a cardiac enzyme whose elevation signals trauma to the heart. Technically, an ultra-marathon is any distance race over the standard 26.2 miles. So what happens to a body that runs even farther; there are physiological, logistical and psychological differences between running far and running really, really far.
Even when things go well, running 100 miles still brings a host of serious physiological and psychological effects on the body. Some Ultra side effects that I have experienced and am yet to experience during the 100 mile ultra are detailed below;
• Hallucinations are part of ultra lore. When you run around the clock, extreme fatigue and strange shadows in the wee hours can sometimes play havoc with your mind. A nap usually fixes the problem.
• Temporary blurred vision can happen in longer ultras, probably due to corneal swelling.
• Cuts and bruises from falls are common because of the uneven terrain of ultras.
• Heart problems are rare in long races; running usually makes the heart and circulatory system stronger. But some recent studies indicate that distance runners may be at slightly higher risk for atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat. Other research has shown some temporary cardiac dysfunction after long races, particularly in the least-trained participants.
• A high rate of respiratory ailments found among ultrarunners in a 2014 study may be largely attributable to dust and flora along trails.
• All distance runners should be aware of the risk of exercise-associated hyponatremia, a potentially deadly condition in which drinking too much water or sports drink dilutes the body’s sodium, causing cells to swell and burst.
• Body temperature is more likely to drop too low (hypothermia) in an ultra, when energy stores are depleted and weather conditions vary. Heat illness is more common in marathons, in part because of the more intense effort.
• Marathoners burn a higher percentage of carbs and can get by on sports drink and gels. Ultrarunners burn a higher percentage of fat and usually need real food, which can mean more gastrointestinal problems.
• The longer the race, the more likely muscle cramps will strike, most often in runners’ quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. No one knows exactly why cramps occur, but most research points to fatigue in the mechanisms that govern muscle control and contraction.
• Stress fractures and other musculoskeletal overuse injuries can plague long-distance runners. Feet are the most common site of stress fractures in ultrarunners, but fractures of the pelvis, femur, tibia and fibula also occur.
• Blisters are more common in ultras, thanks to mud, water, rocks and dust that can get into shoes and socks. Also, moving on varied terrain, such as steep downhills, can cause friction spots.
I have never completed anything longer than a marathon so for me this is a huge undertaking both physically and mentally. Hopefully this will be the first of a few planned events this year, I’m not allowed to do another Ironman for at least 2 years my good wife has told me so will have to stick to the running.
This one is for Autism NI and I would be grateful for every penny we can raise for this fantastic charity.
To sponsor me please visit my Just Giving page – www.justgiving.com/kylelastonestanding