What weird things have runners described seeing?

Runners described seeing weird things. One runner stated seeing stones lined up like animals and pictures of faces on the walls of a tunnel. Another runner felt like she was being followed by someone and saw the shadow of a human figure in the tunnel close to finish line.

Is there an Example of Ultramarathon?

In this example, 95 people ran a 246 km or 153 miles ultra-distance race in 44 hours going up a mountain 3.2 kms or 2 miles and then coming back. They started running for 2 nights starting at 8 pm on the first day, all of the second day, and until 4 pm on the third day for a total of 44 hours.

Where did this ultramarathon happen?

This was an ultramarathon run in Taiwan, a country in Asia. Taiwan is a country in East Asia and is bordered by China, Japan, and Philippines. Most of Taiwan has mountains and is amongst the most densely populated countries in the World. This ultramarathon happened in a mountain range called Hehuan mountains which is 3.3 km or 2 miles above sea level.

What was the run course?

This was a 246 km ultramarathon. Out of the 246 km of the run, the first 80 km were on a wide, flat well-lit road. The next 40 km had alternating uphill and downhill part. The next 110 km was very difficult. There was a 40 km uphill on a narrow road and then an 80-90 km downhill. The final 25 km was along rocky cliffs with tunnels. The weather was 26 degrees C or approximately 75-degree Fahrenheit on the first night and then dropped to single-digit in Celsius. It was foggy and windy on the mountain summit on the second day. On the third day, the weather was breezy and cool with a light shower.

Who were the runners?

Of the 95 people who ran the ultramarathon, there were 82 males and 13 females. The runners were in great shape and in great health. In other words, runners who had heart problems, kidney problems, seizures did not participate in this. The runners were aged approximately between 32 years and 60 years. Out of the 95 runners who started running this ultramarathon, 33 were able to finish this. If you are into running, you know this is amazing. One runner finished the whole 246 km in just 34 hours.

How about sleeping during the race?

All runners were permitted to rest and to freely consume water and food throughout the race, according to standard ultra-marathon regulations. All these eight runners claimed to have slept only about 30 min of sleep during the race. This was like a power nap.

Were there any health changes?

For the 8 runners who agreed, blood samples were taken a week before, immediately after the race and 3 days after the race to examine some of the changes that could happen in the body. Now here is the thing. No runner reported headaches during or after the race. No runner suffered from heat-related illnesses, such as cramps, exertional hyperthermia, heat syncope, or body temperature of >40.0°C (104.0 °F), or anything that indicated heat stroke.

On the other hand, no runner had cold injuries, such as hypothermia with core body temperature below 35°C (95 °F), chilblain, trench foot, frostbite, or any such thing.

How were the runners trained?

Ultramarathon is very challenging; we all know that. These runners had a lot of training. They had been running ultramarathons anywhere between 1 to 5 years and some of them trained with running for more than 100 km a week.

What are those things the runners experienced?

The vivid things the runners experienced are called visual hallucinations. Hallucinations are when someone feels things that do not exist in the real world. It may be related to seeing, hearing, smelling, or tasting.  These runners had visual hallucinations because of a combination of lack of sleep and vigorous exercise. There are guidelines put forth by some of the ultramarathon organizations and they suggest taking small naps of 8-20 minutes during the running course. I don’t think I would be able to do this, but I am really impressed with the stamina and health of these ultramarathon runners.

Did the runners have hypoglycemia or low blood sugar?

If you think about it, In endurance athletes, carbohydrates are the main energy source to keep them going. On average the ultramarathon runner burns about 60-kilo cal every km of the race. In general, we all as humans can store 2000 cal of glucose and absorb 250 cal per hour.

So, if the runners don’t get enough to eat or drink and burn out all the glucose how will they maintain it?

Over time there will be net calorie loss and the glucose can go down. This can be common in runs of more than 4 hours – typically more than a full marathon. If you are going on a marathon and super long run, make sure to prepare yourself. Running can put a lot of physical and psychological load. Runners world is a website with a lot of resources and I have left the link in the description below. (runnersworld.com).


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Reference: Huang MK, Chang KS, Kao WF, Li LH, How CK, Wang SH, Lin YK, Hwang YS, Chien DK, Chiu YH. Visual hallucinations in 246-km mountain ultra-marathoners: An observational study. Chin J Physiol. 2021 Sep-Oct;64(5):225-231. doi: 10.4103/cjp.cjp_57_21. PMID: 34708714.


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