European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 385–396 | Cite as

Muscle mechanical characteristics in fatigue and recovery from a marathon race in highly trained runners

  • Kim Petersen
  • Claus Bugge Hansen
  • Per Aagaard
  • Klavs MadsenEmail author
Original Article


The aim of the present study was to examine muscle mechanical characteristics before and after a marathon race. Eight elite runners underwent a pre-test 1 week before the marathon and post-tests 30 min, two and five-day-post-marathon. Actual marathon race performance was 2:34:40 ± 0:04:13. Energy expenditure at marathon pace (EEMpace) was elevated 4% post-marathon (pre: 4,465 ± 91 vs. post 4,638 ± 91 J kg bodyweight−1 km−1, P < 0.05), but was lowered by 6 and 9.5% two- and five-day-post-marathon compared to EEMpace pre-marathon. Countermovement jump (CMJ) power decreased 13% post-marathon (pre: 21.5 ± 0.9 vs. post: 18.9 ± 1.2 W kg−1; P < 0.05) and remained depressed two- (18%) and five-day (12%) post-marathon. CMJ force was unaltered across all four tests occasions. Knee extensor and plantar flexor maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) decreased from 176.6 ± 9.5 to 136.7 ± 16.8 Nm and 144.9 ± 8.7 to 119.2 ± 15.1 Nm post-marathon corresponding to 22 and 17%, respectively (P < 0.05). No significant changes were detected in evoked contractile parameters, except a 25% increase in force at 5 Hz, and low frequency fatigue was not observed. In conclusion, leg muscle power decreased acutely post-marathon race and recovered very slowly. The post-marathon increase in EEMpace might be attributed to a reduction in stretch shortening cycle efficiency. Finally, since MVC was reduced after the marathon race without any marked changes in evoked muscle contractile properties, the strength fatigue experienced by the subjects in this study seems to be related to central rather than peripheral mechanisms.


Marathon performance Neuromuscular fatigue Running economy Endurance athletes 



We would like to thank all the subjects who committed to participate in the study. We are grateful for the excellent technical assistance in the laboratory by Benthe Jørgensen, Kurt Jensen, Jesper Franch, and Susanne Jørgensen.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Petersen
    • 1
  • Claus Bugge Hansen
    • 1
  • Per Aagaard
    • 1
  • Klavs Madsen
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Sports Science and Clinical BiomechanicsUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

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