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Sex differences of ultra-endurance running: Profiling of female ultra-runners


Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing

About the Project

Ultra-endurance running has become increasingly popular, both in amateur and recreational athletes, with an exponential increase in the number of ultra-marathon finishers between 1998 and 2011 (Cejka et al., 2013; Hoffman & Krishnan 2013;). Ultra-endurance distances are considered races or events longer than the traditional 42.195 km marathon distance (Hoffman & Krishnan 2013; Zingg et al., 2013). The only official World Championships exist for 100 km ultra-marathons (www.iaaf.org/home) however, thousands of ultra-running events are held around the world, the majority of which take part over distances ranging from 50km to 164km, as well as multi-day endurance events (American Ultra Running Association, 2008; International Association of Ultrarunners, 2017) with varying environmental conditions (altitude and temperature), course routes and terrain (Knechtle et al., 2016).

It has previously been suggested that differences in running performance between genders would disappear with increasing distances (Barn et al., 1997), however differences have been seen in aerobic capacity and muscular strength and running times (Cheuvront et al. 2005).

Numerous studies have examined ultra-endurance events; however, less investigation has been focused on the differences between male and female runners. Although the biochemical and physiological responses to ultra-endurance running is not yet fully understood the majority of research has investigated the physical demand during such events, which induces a wide range of biochemical and physiological changes and skeletal muscle damage (Fallon et al. 1999; Kim et al. 2007; Del Coso et al. 2013b). Furthermore Krouse et al. (2011) indicated psychological coping and general health orientation as motivational factors in female ultra-runners but further research is required to investigate and understand the gender differences in ultra-endurance running (Knechtle et al., 2016).

The aim of this research is to determine the biochemical and physiological differences of performing ultra-endurance events particularly in female ultra-runners.

The objectives of the research will be to:

1) Understand the breath of ultra-endurance running and gender differences.
2) Assess the impact of ultra-running on physiological and biochemical markers.
3) Explore the differences between male and female ultra-endurance runners, focusing on the female athlete.

The specific aims and programme of work for the PhD will be outlined together with the potential candidates and supervisory team to match their background, interests, skills and ability to conduct experimental and field research. The project work will involve systematic literature review, field work, as well as data collection in controlled laboratory environment and in experimental settings. The project will employ a range of techniques in exercise physiology, biochemistry, immunology and molecular biology and psychology analysis.

This research will be conducted within the multi-disciplinary Sport Exercise Nutrition & Public Health research group in the Faculty of Science Engineering & Computing.






Funding Notes

There is no funding for this project
Candidates should have a first or upper second class honours in an area relevant to the proposed research. This includes areas such as Human physiology, Sports Science, Physiotherapy, where they will have a background in exercise physiology with excellent practical laboratory skills and excellent interpersonal skills for dealing with healthy volunteers and patients. In all cases a master’s degree or equivalent qualification or other evidence of research skills and experience is preferred but not essential.

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