Under extreme conditions, the human body is pushed to its limits. In order to better define the physiological mechanisms involved, researchers followed athletes during a very special competition: the Tor des Géants. During the 2011 edition of this 330km ultramarathon, they observed that the runners’ neuromuscular and biological functions were preserved, compared to races over shorter distances.
This article is a translation of “Courses en conditions extrêmes : le tout est de savoir se ménager…” by Timothée Froelich.
Nothing compares to the conditions of a mountain ultramarathon to study the human body’s physiological reactions to extreme strain! An ultramarathon is a running race over a distance longer than 42.195 km, the length of a traditional marathon. Add to that steep slopes and gravel paths and you get ultra-trails such as the Tor des Géants or the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). The latter is a race over approximately 170 km (100 miles) with 9,600 m of elevation gain. As for the Tor des Géants, its route covers a total of 330 mountainous kilometers in the Aosta Valley, Italy, with a vertical gain of 24,000 m. By studying the reactions of the athletes during these two events, the researchers could compare their effects on the body.