Sometime in the past couple of decades, the idea of runninga marathon became less crazy. But for some people, a 26.2-mile marathon just isn’t long enough. Some athletes are turning to ultrarunning, 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 — 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 ultramarathon 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.
I am attempting this 24 hour eating and drinking contest
with a little exercise and scenery thrown in on Feb 20th this year with a 100
mile Ultra at Castle Ward beginning at noon.
Some of what I have experienced and am still to experience
is detailed below:
The body stores glycogen in its liver and muscles; most
people's bodies have enough glycogen to about last 20 miles, or a fifth of an
ultra. The feeling of running out of sugar is aptly called "bonking";
or hitting a wall. Fat is harder to burn as fuel. What a runner eats during the
race can mean the difference between finishing sweaty, or finishing covered in
ones own ****. I have a lot of “love”
for runners who poop their pants and keep going although hope I am not one of
them. Many people have failed to finish
a hundred mile race based on gastrointestinal misadventures the stomach is a
demon that slows down, or ends, a lot of days.
But there are worse foes.
While urinating blood post-race is somewhat normal due to
the hemolysis from repetitive foot-strikes, urine that's brown or black could
signal renal failure. When small, exertional tears occur in muscle, the muscle
is rebuilt stronger. During such a long race, significant muscle breakdown can
occur, dumping myosin into the bloodstream to be filtered out by the kidneys. A
dehydrated body, with an increased concentration of myosin in its sludgy blood,
is hard enough on the kidneys; add multiple doses of NSAID pain-relievers (like
ibuprofen), which shrink the kidneys, and you have a perfect storm for renal
failure. There is not a consensus on how, exactly, myoglobin causes renal
failure, rather a trio of suspects: obstruction of the delicate tubules of the
kidneys, lack of oxygen, or a toxic reaction. Compared to kidneys that stop
working, excreting your brains out thanks to hours of sugary drinks and a
sloshing gut does seems like a quaint right of passage and again not one I
would like to experience.
BTW - It's important to note that renal failure is a rare
side-effect, and one that can be guarded against to a certain degree by careful
monitoring and planning. Most runners won't land themselves in the hospital for
a course of dialysis.
Even when things go well, running 100 miles still brings a
host of serious physiological and psychological effects on the body. Most
athletes lose the ability to thermoregulate somewhere after the 10 to 15 hour
mark. In races that have variable temperature, when an athlete fatigues to the
point of not being able to run. An
enormous amount of heat is produced by skeletal muscle during running, and the
body works hard to get rid of it; muscle temperatures of around 38 degrees
Celcius mean that vasodilation and evaporative cooling are a must to keep core
temps down. Once a runner reaches the 50 mile point, if they haven't managed
themselves well in terms of calories and hydration, if they're not in the
proper shape to do the event, and especially if the temperature is below 26
degrees Celcius, shivering can occur. "The body's thermostat is off after
a long period of running.
One big rule seems to be that minor inconveniences now could
spell disaster later. Nipples slightly chafed by a new shirt during the first
half of the race could be two bleeding astro orbs by the end of it. Feet swell,
clogging once-well-fit shoes with fluid; toenails bruise, turn black, and
eventually fall off. Chafing can go from nuisance to Halloween-level gore.
You'd be amazed what a blister could do if you give it 100 miles of rubbing ( I
have only see 35 miles so far and it isn’t pleasant)
So with all of that outlined I may appear slightly deranged,
but this hopefully 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. I am
however doing this one for Autism NI and would be grateful for every penny we
can raise for this fantastic charity.