European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 5, pp 1709–1715 | Cite as

The energetics of ultra-endurance running

  • Stefano LazzerEmail author
  • Desy Salvadego
  • Enrico Rejc
  • Antonio Buglione
  • Guglielmo Antonutto
  • Pietro Enrico di Prampero
Original Article


Our objective was to determine the effects of long-lasting endurance events on the energy cost of running (C r), and the role of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), its fractional utilisation (F) and C r in determining the performance. Ten healthy runners (age range 26–59 years) participated in an ultra-endurance competition consisting of three running laps of 22, 48 and 20 km on three consecutive days in the North–East of Italy. Anthropometric characteristics and VO2max by a graded exercise test on a treadmill were determined 5 days before and 5 days after the competition. In addition, C r was determined on a treadmill before and after each running lap. Heart rate (HR) was recorded throughout the three laps. Results revealed that mean C r of the individual laps did not increase significantly with lap number (P = 0.200), thus ruling out any chronic lap effect. Even so, however, at the end of lap 3, C r was 18.0% (P < 0.001) greater than before lap 1. In addition, a statistically significant acute lap effect on C r was observed at the end of the second and third laps (by 11.4 and 7.2%, respectively). The main factors determining performance were VO2max, F, as estimated from the average HR, and the average C r-mean throughout the three laps; the grand average speed over the three laps being described by v end-mean = F × VO2max × C r-mean −1 . We concluded that (1) the substantial increase of C r-mean during the competition yields to marked worsening of the performance, and (2) the three variables F, VO2max and C r-mean combined as described above explaining 87% of the total competition time variance.


Maximal oxygen uptake Energy cost Ultramarathon Gas exchange threshold Efficiency 



We are grateful to the athletes for their kind collaboration, to Mr A. Iossa, Mr P. Tedeschi, and the A.S.D. Triathlon Team – Pordenone, Italy, for their qualified assistance during the study. We are grateful to Dr. M. Isola for his advises for statistical analyses. The financial support of the Lions Club, Udine-Duomo, Italy, is gratefully acknowledged.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefano Lazzer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Desy Salvadego
    • 1
    • 2
  • Enrico Rejc
    • 1
    • 2
  • Antonio Buglione
    • 3
    • 4
  • Guglielmo Antonutto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pietro Enrico di Prampero
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Medical and Biological SciencesUniversity of UdineUdineItaly
  2. 2.School of Sport Sciences, University of UdineUdineItaly
  3. 3.Human Performance Training and Lab “Carmelo Bosco”University Tor VergataRomeItaly
  4. 4.School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University Tor VergataRomeItaly

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