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



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.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


θ A (°):

Ankle angle

\(\dot{V}\)CO2 (L min−1):

Carbon dioxide output

t c (s):

Contact time

CT (s):

Cycle time

DF (%):

Duty factor


End of contact

C cycl (kJ L−1):

Energy cost of cycling

C r (J m−1 kg−1):

Energy cost of running


Extreme mountain ultra-marathon

θ F (°):

Foot angle

GE (%):

Gross efficiency


Initial contact

θ K (°):

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

t c −1 (s−1):

Rate of force application


Respiratory exchange ratio

θ L (°):

Shank angle

SF (Hz):

Stride frequency

SL (m):

Stride length

t s (s):

Swing time

θ T (°):

Thigh angle

\(\dot{V}\)E/\(\dot{V}\)CO2 :

Ventilatory equivalent ratio for carbon dioxide

\(\dot{V}\)E/\(\dot{V}\)O2 :

Ventilatory equivalent ratio for oxygen


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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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Correspondence to Gianluca Vernillo.

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Communicated by Jean-René Lacour.

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Vernillo, G., Savoldelli, A., Zignoli, A. et al. Influence of the world’s most challenging mountain ultra-marathon on energy cost and running mechanics. Eur J Appl Physiol 114, 929–939 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-014-2824-y

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  • Cycling
  • Fatigue
  • Kinematics
  • Oxygen cost
  • Running
  • Ultra trail