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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2014 February;54(1):34-42

language: English

Preparation for and physiological responses to competing in the Marathon des Sables: a case report

Williams N. C., Wickes S. J., Gilmour K., Barker N., Scott J. P. R.

Human Sciences, QinetiQ Ltd., UK


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A case study into the preparation and physiological responses of competing in the Marathon des Sables (MDS) was conducted by preparing a male competitor for, and monitoring him during, his first attempt at the race. The aims of this case report were to (a) prepare and monitor an ex-Olympic, male rower (S1) during the 2010 race and; (b) compare his physiological responses and race performance to that of the current MDS record holder (S2). S1 (age 37 y; body mass 94.0 kg; height 1.92 m; VO2peak 66.0 ml·kg-1·min-1) and S2 (age 37 y; body mass 60.8 kg; height 1.68 m; VO2peak 65.9 ml·kg-1·min-1) completed a heat test and S1 subsequently underwent 7 d of heat acclimation prior to the MDS. Gastro-intestinal temperature (Tgi) and heart rate (HR) were measured for S1 during Stages 2, 4, and 5 of the MDS and pre- and post-stage body mass, and urine specific gravity were measured for all stages. Race time and average speeds were collected for S1 and S2. Total race times for S1 and S2 were 25:29:35 and 19:45:08 h:min:s. S1’s mean (±1 SD) percentage HR range (%HRR=[HR-HRmin]/[HRmax-HRmin]x100) was 66.1±13.4% and Tgi ranged between 36.63–39.65°C. The results provide a case report on the physiological responses of a highly aerobically-trained, but novice ultra-endurance runner competing in the MDS, and allow for a comparison with an elite performer.

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jscott1@qinetiq.com