Ultramarathon

Photo: Bruno Long.

Would you continue to run if you knew it was bad for your health? A majority of ultrarunners, according to a new study, say yes.

Participants of the Ultrarunners Longitudinal TRAcking (ULTRA) study, published as “Ultra-obligatory running among ultramarathon runners,” were asked “if you were to learn, with absolute certainty, that ultramarathon running is bad for your health, would you stop your ultramarathon training and participation?” Based on 1,349 responses, 74 per cent of runners responded “no.” According to the study, those who answered “no” were less likely to be married, younger, have no children and have a higher personal goal achievement.

The study, by Martin Hoffman and Rhonna Krouse, was published in Research in Sports Medicine on Jan. 29, 2018.

An ultramarathon is any distance more than a marathon, or 42.2K. Common race distances include 50K, 50 miles, 100K and 100 miles.

Award-winning journalist Matt Fitzgerald shared the study on his Twitter page with a number of responses from people in the ultrarunning community. “I’m pretty sure most of them don’t do it for the health benefits,” one user says in reply to Fitzgerald, who summarized the study as “according to a new study, 74 per cent of ultrarunners say they would continue to participate in ultramarathons even if they had certain knowledge that doing so was bad for their health.”

British ultramarathoner Robbie Britton responded to Fitzgerald’s tweet saying that the “study is flawed by using such a simple question.”

The study concludes that most ultramarathoners would continue to run if they learned that it was bad for their health. “It [running] appears to serve their psychological and personal achievement motivations and their task orientation such that they must perceive enhanced benefits that are worth retaining at the risk of their health,” the study says.


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