Go Death Racers!

August 6, 2012

Torah Kachur

Last weekend I had the pleasure of witnessing the 13th annual Great Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta.  Here is where a group of mentally insane and totally badass runners make their way over 3 mountains, through mud, in streams, across rocks and scree and all sorts of hazards for 24 hours and 125 kms.  This is the ultimate ultramarathon. 



One hundred and twenty five kilometers.  In one day.  On foot. 


There was blood, there was certainly tears and Advil should really be a sponsor.  I had three questions when I was watching - first was quite simply "How are there so many stupid people willing to run this?" and the second being "How?" and of course the nagging question was "WHY??" The only answer I can find is for the 'how'....ultramarathons are a completely different race than marathoners because muscular stress and stress on your bones is the largest factor in determining performance, instead of simply oxygen efficiency.  Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology just in time on August 1st discusses how mechanics change when you plan on tackling over 100kms. 



Ultramarathoners are a different bunch than the marathoners among us, they can often be successful with larger muscle masses than the speedy little East Africans on spindly legs because muscle mass protects against the biggest danger to ultramarathoners - injury.  When you are running the distance between New York and Philadelphia in a day the biggest fear isn't that you should be committed to an asylum but that the damage to your legs would not allow you to finish the race.  This is where decreased motor efficiency in ultramarathoners compared to marathoners can be compensated because they are less likely to be injured.


So a tank like me maybe has a chance to complete the Death Race next year.  If only I could get off the couch.


Millet GY, Hoffman MD, Morin JB. (2012). Last Word on Viewpoint: Sacrificing economy to improve running performance--a reality in the ultramarathon? Jounral of Applied Physiology DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00016.2012






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