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Would You Stop Running if You Knew It Was Bad for You? The Ultramarathon Runner Response

      Objective

      The Ultrarunners Longitudinal TRAcking (ULTRA) Study is a longitudinal health study initiated in 2011. Herewith are some results from the first follow-up questionnaire distributed in 2014 comparing selected characteristics between those answering “yes” and “no” to the question, “If you were to learn, with absolute certainty, that ultramarathon running is bad for your health, would you stop your ultramarathon training and participation?”

      Methods

      ULTRA Study participants who had completed an ultramarathon since study enrollment or intended to run ultramarathons again received the question. Updated information was obtained on current number of biological children, marital status, and average weekly running distance in the prior 12 months, and the Motivations of Marathoners Scales was completed.

      Results

      Among the 1349 runners receiving the question, 349 (25.9%) answered “yes.” Those answering “yes” compared with those answering “no” were older (median age, 47.3 vs 43.3 years, P < .0001), more likely to be married (76.2% vs 69.6%, P = .019), had more children (median number 2 vs 1, P = .0095), and ran less (median 30 vs 35 km/wk in past year, P < .0001), but did not differ in sex (70.5% vs 67.6% men, P = .35). The Motivations of Marathoners Scales showed significant group differences with those answering “yes” to the question having a higher health orientation (median 5.7 vs 5.3, P < .0001), and lower personal goal achievement (median 5.0 vs 5.2, P = .0061), psychological coping (median 4.4 vs 4.8, P < .0001) and life meaning (median 4.6 vs 4.9, P = .0002) scores.

      Conclusion

      Ultramarathon runners find benefit from participating in ultramarathon running to the extent that most indicate they would not stop doing it even if it was bad for their health. Not surprisingly, those indicating they would stop were older, more likely to be married, had more children, were running less, were more health oriented, were less achievement oriented, and had less psychological motivations for running.
      Supported by the Western States Endurance Run Foundation.