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Differences in Training and Health Characteristics Between Trail Ultrarunners and Shorter Distance Runners.

INTRODUCTION: The primary aim of the study was to compare select training and health characteristics between ultramarathon and shorter distance runners participating in a trail race series.

METHODS: A questionnaire was sent to all participants who signed up for a trail race series, including distances of 10 km, half marathon, 50 km, 80.5 km (50 mi), and 100 km. There were 59 participants (27 ultramarathoners and 32 half marathon/10-km runners) who completed the questionnaire. We compared the training and health characteristics between groups using t tests and Fisher exact tests.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences in reported history of stress fracture (15% vs 9%; P=0.70) or sleep quality scores (4.4 vs 5.5; P=0.15) between the ultramarathon and half marathon/10-km groups. Over half of both groups reported trying to change body weight to improve performance, without significant differences between groups (65% vs 53%; P=0.42). A significantly greater proportion of the ultramarathoners reported an episode of binge eating in the 4 wk preceding the race (38% vs 3%; P=0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Despite differences in training volume, we did not find different injury, sleep, and nutrition data between the ultramarathoners and half marathon/10-km runners, with the exception of more ultramarathoners reporting binging behaviors in the 4 wk leading up to the race. Screening for eating disorder behaviors should be considered in distance runners, particularly ultrarunners.

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