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Ultramarathons discussed on Science Friday

John Dankosky chats with exercise scientists about how ultramarathons affect the body.

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Fill-in host John Dankosky talked all things ultra running during last week's edition of Science Friday.

Tamara Hew-Butler and Greg Whyte, professors of exercise science at Oakland University and Liverpool John Moores University, respectively, spoke with Dankosky about what ultra running does to our hearts, blood and brains.

Runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities can attest to how running affects the body, but ultra running takes these issues several steps further. Whatever the distance, Whyte notes that "marathon running is ultra endurance running." While many consider it "middle distance" when compared to events like Badwater, it's still a "long and arduous" event the body endures.

Interestingly, the intensity of the experience decreases over time for ultra runners. Due to the longer distances, those who participate in ultra endurance events must pace themselves in a slower, more regulated matter in comparison to those who run road races of lesser distances.

Ultra runners aren't "superhuman" as Dankosky playfully implies. Instead, Hew-Butler says they're mortals who "train really, really hard" and put in a lot of practice, time and repetition when physically and mentally preparing themselves for ultra endurance events.

That's why most ultra runners will train for longer events with one or two very long runs on the weekends, as opposed to numerous shorter runs spread through the typical weekly schedule. These longer training runs lend themselves to the physical and mental training necessary for 50k events and higher.

After Dankosky's initial questions, callers chimed in from around the U.S. to ask questions. Many asked Hew-Butler and Whyte about running-related injuries and how these might be amplified by ultra distance running. In response, Whyte cautioned listeners to consider "preexisting conditions" before blaming ultramarathons outright for certain health issues.

If you missed Friday's segment, you can listen to it below:

Hear anything new or interesting during the show? Agree or disagree with something said by Dankosky, his guests or the callers? Let us know in the comments below.