Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Participation and performance trends in 6-hour ultra-marathoners: A retrospective data analysis of worldwide participation from 1991-2010

Luca Ehrensperger, Beat Knechtle, Christoph Alexander Rüst, Thomas Rosemann



Participation trends in 6-hour ultra-marathons held word-wide were investigated to gain basic demographic data on 6-hour ultra-marathoners and where these races took place. Participation trends and the association between nationality and race performance were investigated in all 6-hour races held worldwide between 1991 and 2010. Participation increased linearly in both women and men across years. The annual number of finishes was significantly higher in men than in women (P=0.013). The male-to-female ratio remained stable at ~4 since 1991. Runners in age group 45-49 years showed the largest increase in participation for both men (800 participants in 18 years) and women (208 participants in 16 years). Europe attracted most of the runners from other continents (166 runners), more than all other continents combined (55 runners). European runners also showed the best top ten performances (73±3 km for women and 77±11 km for men), while African (with 65±9 km for men) and South American (54±4 km for women and 65±2 km for men) runners showed the weakest. To summarize, participation in 6-hour ultra-marathons increased across years. Most of the development took place in Europe and in athletes in the age group 45-49 years. Europe also attracted the most diverse field of athletes with runners from all other continents. European runners accounted for the most runners and achieved the best top ten performances.


Ultra-Endurance; Running; Nationality; Age; Gender


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