For the longest distance runner, that tired feeling may not be due to central fatigue

(March 12, 2002) - Bethesda, MD -- An ultramarathon is any running event longer than the standard marathon distance of 42 kilometers, 195 meters (26 miles, 385 feet). Dedicated runners from around the world take up the challenge of this long distance event. For even the most in-shape participants, a race of this distance can last from six to nine hours.


Fatigue is a natural consequence of such sustained physical activity. Physical activity lasting one to two hours often leads to local fatigue, causing pain in a specific part of the body. A long held belief in the scientific community is that central fatigue, resulting from alterations to the central nervous system, is the consequence of an ultra-long-duration exercise.

Despite the purported association between central fatigue and an ultra-long-duration exercise, few studies have examined the alterations of neuromuscular function after a grueling physical endeavor. Now, a team of French research scientists set out to examine such changes in runners' neuromuscular function after a 65 kilometer (40 mile) race, which is approximately equal to the distance between the Lincoln Memorial in Washington and Baltimore's Camden Yards, the city's baseball stadium.

Their experiment is the first one designed to study the changes in neuromuscular functions after properties after ultra-long-fatigue. This examination required the testing of changes in voluntary and electrically invoked evoked force of the knee extensors and plantar flexors that occur before and after an ultramarathon.

The authors of the study, "Alterations of Neuromuscular Function After an Ultramarathon," are G.Y. Millet, R. Lepers, N.A. Maffiuletti, N. Babault, V. Martin, and G. Lattier, all from the Groupe Analyse du Mouvement, Facult des Sciences du Sport, Universit de Bourgogne, Dijon Cedex, France. Their findings are published in the February 2002 edition of the Journal of Applied Phys

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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