Brussels, 14 May 2004
An international research project is to study the effects of taking part in one of the world's most extreme endurance races - the 135 mile (217 kilometre) Badwater Ultramarathon that takes place in Death Valley in the US in July.
Among the 90 competitors lining up at the start will be 15 runners participating in the runex123 project. Scientists from Germany, Austria and the UK will accompany these runners, and will monitor the psychological, physiological and biochemical effects of pushing the body to such extremes. Tests will be carried each time a runner completes a half marathon distance.
'I am keen to look at plasma volume changes and regulation, fluid balance and electrolytes in these ultra-endurance runners,' said Professor Ralph Beneke from the UK's University of Essex - one of scientists involved in the project. 'Additionally, the extreme exercise and environmental conditions might enable me to further investigate structural and functional integrity of cells with special respect to blood, skeletal muscle, heart, liver, kidneys and the central nervous system.'
Neuropsychologist Michael Doppelmayr from Austria will be responsible for assessing the psychological state of each competitor. Each runner will be asked questions, the answers to which will enable the Dr Doppelmayr to assess, on the one hand, their personality structure and motivation, and on the other hand, cognitive, emotional and motivational changes during the run.
In addition to running 217 kilometres in temperatures reaching 55 degrees Celsius, each participant will have to climb from the lowest point in the US - 86 metres below sea level - to a point in the Sierra Nevada mountain range 2,500 metres above sea level.
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