Ultra runners not your average human being

April 11, 2017, Monash University
Ultra runners not your average human being
Credit: Simonkr

Researchers at Monash University seeking to discover why ultra-runners can endure prolonged and extreme physical exertion have found a vital clue – these athletes may experience less pain than the general population.

The researchers tested 19 ultra-runners and found they scored differently to a of nine non ultra-runners on several self-report pain measures, including the Pain Catastrophising Scale.

They also felt less pain during a Cold Pressor Task, a and tolerance test where their arm was immersed in icy water for a period of up to three minutes. On average, the ultra-runners kept their arm in the water for longer than the control group, and reported less pain when asked to rate themselves on an 11-point scale every 10 seconds.

Lead researcher Dr Bernadette Fitzgibbon, from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, said she became curious about differences in people's pain tolerance when approached by an ultra-runner colleague - and co-researcher on this project - Dr Donna Urquhart.

Dr Fitzgibbon said: "What we found in this preliminary study is that ultra-runners had reduced pain 'attention' and may think about pain in a distinct way from the rest of the population. Clearly I'm not one of those – I could only hold my arm in the icy water for six seconds!"

Dr Fitzgibbon will undertake further research into ultra-runners' personality type – having noticed they tend to be white collar, middle aged and successful. "Surprisingly they don't seem to be hyper-competitive, but are certainly highly motivated and goal oriented."

Ultra-runners take part in foot races that are longer than traditional 42 km marathons, with common distances being 50km, 80.5km, 100km and 161 km. These increasingly popular cross country events, such as the Coast to Kosciuszko, are often held over several days.

Dr Bernadette Fitzgibbon will present her research in a paper titled "Greater associated with related cognition in ultra-runners" at the Australian Pain Society annual general meeting, on 11 April.

Explore further: Recovery from ultramarathon may take up to 5 days

Related Stories

Recovery from ultramarathon may take up to 5 days

February 26, 2016
(HealthDay)—It takes ultramarathon runners about five days to recover from an event, a new study shows.

Researchers refute traditional measures of inducing pain in exercise experiments

March 14, 2016
Senior lecturer Dr. Lex Mauger and PhD student Ali Astokorki of the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Kent have showed that traditional methods of measuring pain in experiments - such as thermal, ...

Stronger hips improved running mechanics, lessened knee pain

June 2, 2011
Hip strengthening exercises performed by female runners not only significantly reduced patellofemoral pain -- a common knee pain experienced by runners -- but they also improved the runners' gaits, according to Indiana University ...

Foot pain often occurs in clusters

February 23, 2017
A new study indicates that particular areas of foot pain are more likely to occur together, and these clusters have specific characteristics.

Differences in sex and running ability influence declines in marathon performance, study finds

February 28, 2017
A person's sex and running ability play a role in the decline of their performance in marathons as they get older, according to a Georgia State University study.

Recommended for you

Moderate exercise before conception resulted in lower body weight, increased insulin sensitivity of offspring

October 22, 2018
Men who want to have children in the near future should consider hitting the gym.

Juul e-cigarettes pose addiction risk for young users, study finds

October 19, 2018
Teens and young adults who use Juul brand e-cigarettes are failing to recognize the product's addictive potential, despite using it more often than their peers who smoke conventional cigarettes, according to a new study by ...

Self-lubricating latex could boost condom use: study

October 17, 2018
A perpetually unctuous, self-lubricating latex developed by a team of scientists in Boston could boost the use of condoms, they reported Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Engineered enzyme eliminates nicotine addiction in preclinical tests

October 17, 2018
Scientists at Scripps Research have successfully tested a potential new smoking-cessation treatment in rodents.

Nutrition has a greater impact on bone strength than exercise

October 17, 2018
One question that scientists and fitness experts alike would love to answer is whether exercise or nutrition has a bigger positive impact on bone strength.

How healthy will we be in 2040?

October 17, 2018
A new scientific study of forecasts and alternative scenarios for life expectancy and major causes of death in 2040 shows all countries are likely to experience at least a slight increase in lifespans. In contrast, one scenario ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.