Written By Sam Heward
Sam is one of the Ultra X Co-Founders. If he's not actually out running, chances are he's busy writing about it (or plotting Ultra X strategy!)
Dr Danny Longman from Cambridge University spent the week in Jordan at the Wadi Rum Ultra 2018. His aim was to conduct research on the effects of prolonged heat exertion on the human mind and body. Competitors who took part in the study then received their personal results and his analysis.
Dr Danny Longman is an evolutionary biologist studying adaptation to stress. His research investigates how endurance athletes’ bodies adapt and change during multi-day races. Danny has himself completed a number of ultra-endurance challenges including a six-month Pan-American cycling expedition and a record-breaking Arctic Ocean row.
For the last three years Danny has been analysing athletes at ultra-marathons around the world, and using the data collected to gain insight into human evolution. Events such as Ultra X Jordan place significant physiological stress on participating runners, forcing the body to make adaptive changes in order to continue. By analysing these changes, Danny is able to infer lessons for our own evolution.
At Wadi Rum Ultra 2018, two thirds of the race entrants participated in the research. Danny was able to give athletes useful data such as body weight, fat and muscle levels and core body temperature during the daily runs. Following lab analysis of saliva samples, he will be sending each runner a comprehensive physiological report, tracking their progress through the week’s event.
Following overwhelmingly positive feedback, Danny will be out in Sri Lanka, offering the same analysis to those interested. Participants will have their body weight, fat and muscle levels measured before and after the race, as well as analysis of hormone levels and cognitive function. In addition, all athletes will be provided with thermal imaging photographs taken during the race, which show skin surface temperature (see above).
“I lost a massive 9.3kg of bodyweight during the Jordan ultra. From the measurements he took, Danny was able to tell me that the vast majority of this was water, as I’d allowed myself to become very dehydrated. I’ll certainly drink more in future races, and my performance should benefit massively!” – Julien Anani-Isaac
“It was so interesting to take part in this research. I had put lots of planning and preparation into working out my nutritional strategy for multi-stage races, so it was so positive when Danny’s data showed that my weight didn’t change during the race” – Marina Ranger
“It was great to have someone study how my body reacted to the race. Being able to see my actual data as soon as I’d finished running was amazing, all very Matrix” – Dave Phillips
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