|Picture from the article in Outside Magazine|
I have previously written several blog posts claiming that from a running and muscle physiological perspective, shorter distances like 100 kilometers might be tougher than longer races. In longer continuous races there are other challenges, not only general fatigue and sleep deprivation, but also the influence of the environment will be greater and for this reason I think they can give another kind of experience. I recently read two different race reports about PTL 2013 illustrating two different ways of coping with the extreme alpine environment during this long race. The “Flipper’s Gang” from the UK managed to complete thewhole race as a team without a GPS, while the description of how the international team “Too Cute to Quit” deteriorated in the extreme environment is one of the best and most educating race reports I have ever read (the latter report is divided into several sections). How to optimally perform in extreme environments is clearly an area in need of more research. The fascinating article “A neuroscience approach to optimizing brain resources for human performance in extreme environments” by Paulus and colleagues in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 2009; 33: 1080–1088 is a good review and comes up with the hypothesis that “individuals who are optimal performers have developed a well contextualized internal body state that is associated with an appropriate level to act. In contrast, sub-optimal performers either receive interoceptive information that is too strong or too weak to adequately plan or execute appropriate actions.” Longer ultramarathon races is clearly a better test of the interaction between the environment and the body and mind as they in contrast to shorter races clearly require more strategic decisions. I guess that will make them both more challenging and attractive as it is another dimension of the race. Certainly not a “better”, more “trendy” or “the next” dimension, but different.