But the consequence of taking part in ultra-endurance events can be disastrous with participants developing heart problems such as high blood pressure, irregular or fast heartbeat, and fatigue.
One such athlete Steve Birkinshaw broke the endurance record for running up and down all 214 Lake District peaks two years ago. At the time his resting pulse was 36 bpm. He now suffers all the symptoms mentioned above and says twenty other mountain marathon runners have told him that they have the same problems.
Scientists are now going to monitor 100 ultra-marathon runners for damage to their hearts. The study is being run by the University of California and John Moores University and will test existing evidence that the runners had “an increased risk for certain types of cardiac arrhythmia”.
Martin Hoffman, the professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of California leading the study, and who at the age of 60 is taking part in a 200-mile running race after this year, warned couch potatoes not to use the health problems of these ultra-endurance athletes an excuse not to exercise. “Across most of the developed world the problem is not over-training but inactivity”.