European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 114, Issue 5, pp 929–939 | Cite as

Influence of the world’s most challenging mountain ultra-marathon on energy cost and running mechanics

  • Gianluca VernilloEmail author
  • Aldo Savoldelli
  • Andrea Zignoli
  • Pietro Trabucchi
  • Barbara Pellegrini
  • Grégoire P. Millet
  • Federico Schena
Original Article



To examine the effects of the world’s most challenging mountain ultra-marathon (Tor des Géants® 2012) on the energy cost of three types of locomotion (cycling, level and uphill running) and running kinematics.


Before (pre-) and immediately after (post-) the competition, a group of ten male experienced ultra-marathon runners performed in random order three submaximal 4-min exercise trials: cycling at a power of 1.5 W kg−1 body mass; level running at 9 km h−1 and uphill running at 6 km h−1 at an inclination of +15 % on a motorized treadmill. Two video cameras recorded running mechanics at different sampling rates.


Between pre- and post-, the uphill-running energy cost decreased by 13.8 % (P = 0.004); no change was noted in the energy cost of level running or cycling (NS). There was an increase in contact time (+10.3 %, P = 0.019) and duty factor (+8.1 %, P = 0.001) and a decrease in swing time (−6.4 %, P = 0.008) in the uphill-running condition.


After this extreme mountain ultra-marathon, the subjects modified only their uphill-running patterns for a more economical step mechanics.


Cycling Fatigue Kinematics Oxygen cost Running Ultra trail 


θA (°)

Ankle angle

\(\dot{V}\)CO2 (L min−1)

Carbon dioxide output

tc (s)

Contact time

CT (s)

Cycle time

DF (%)

Duty factor


End of contact

Ccycl (kJ L−1)

Energy cost of cycling

Cr (J m−1 kg−1)

Energy cost of running


Extreme mountain ultra-marathon

θF (°)

Foot angle

GE (%)

Gross efficiency


Initial contact

θK (°)

Knee angle

\(\dot{W}\)vert (W kg−1)

Mechanical work rate

\(\dot{V}\)O2 (L min−1)

Oxygen uptake

\(\dot{V}\)E (L min−1)

Pulmonary ventilation

tc−1 (s−1)

Rate of force application


Respiratory exchange ratio

θL (°)

Shank angle

SF (Hz)

Stride frequency

SL (m)

Stride length

ts (s)

Swing time

θT (°)

Thigh angle


Ventilatory equivalent ratio for carbon dioxide


Ventilatory equivalent ratio for oxygen



The authors wish to thank the subjects involved in the present study for their participation, especially during the test sessions in the fatigue condition. We would also like to express our gratitude to Aurelio Marguerettaz, the Regione Autonoma della Valle d’Aosta, the Tor de Géants® Organizing Committee, the Courmayeur Trailers, and Maurizio Capolupo. We thank also Kenneth A. Britsch for checking the manuscript for English.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gianluca Vernillo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Aldo Savoldelli
    • 2
  • Andrea Zignoli
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pietro Trabucchi
    • 2
  • Barbara Pellegrini
    • 1
    • 2
  • Grégoire P. Millet
    • 3
  • Federico Schena
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Neurological and Movement SciencesUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly
  2. 2.CeRiSM, Research Center ‘Sport, Mountain and Health’University of VeronaRoveretoItaly
  3. 3.Department of Physiology, Faculty of Biology and Medicine, ISSUL, Institute of Sport SciencesUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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