European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 509–518 | Cite as

Pulmonary and respiratory muscle function in response to 10 marathons in 10 days

  • Nicholas B. TillerEmail author
  • Louise A. Turner
  • Bryan J. Taylor
Original Article



Marathon and ultramarathon provoke respiratory muscle fatigue and pulmonary dysfunction; nevertheless, it is unknown how the respiratory system responds to multiple, consecutive days of endurance exercise.


Nine trained individuals (six male) contested 10 marathons in 10 consecutive days. Respiratory muscle strength (maximum static inspiratory and expiratory mouth-pressures), pulmonary function (spirometry), perceptual ratings of respiratory muscle soreness (Visual Analogue Scale), breathlessness (dyspnea, modified Borg CR10 scale), and symptoms of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI), were assessed before and after marathons on days 1, 4, 7, and 10.


Group mean time for 10 marathons was 276 ± 35 min. Relative to pre-challenge baseline (159 ± 32 cmH2O), MEP was reduced after day 1 (136 ± 31 cmH2O, p = 0.017), day 7 (138 ± 42 cmH2O, p = 0.035), and day 10 (130 ± 41 cmH2O, p = 0.008). There was no change in pre-marathon MEP across days 1, 4, 7, or 10 (p > 0.05). Pre-marathon forced vital capacity was significantly diminished at day 4 (4.74 ± 1.09 versus 4.56 ± 1.09 L, p = 0.035), remaining below baseline at day 7 (p = 0.045) and day 10 (p = 0.015). There were no changes in FEV1, FEV1/FVC, PEF, MIP, or respiratory perceptions during the course of the challenge (p > 0.05). In the 15-day post-challenge period, 5/9 (56%) runners reported symptoms of URTI, relative to 1/9 (11%) pre-challenge.


Single-stage marathon provokes acute expiratory muscle fatigue which may have implications for health and/or performance, but 10 consecutive days of marathon running does not elicit cumulative (chronic) changes in respiratory function or perceptions of dyspnea. These data allude to the robustness of the healthy respiratory system.


Ultramarathon Endurance Lung function Fatigue 



Forced vital capacity


Forced expiratory volume in 1 s


Peak inspiratory flow


Peak expiratory flow


Maximum voluntary ventilation


Maximum inspiratory mouth pressure


Maximum expiratory mouth pressure


Upper respiratory tract infection


Visual analogue scale


Standard deviation


Coefficient of variation


Standard error of measurement


Confidence interval


Intra-class correlation


Analysis of variance



The authors would like to thank Glen Moulds, Nick Collins, and the whole team at The Suffolk Academy, Suffolk, UK, for their kind hospitality and cooperation, and the runners who gave their time to participate in data-collection protocols.

Author contributions

NBT conceived and designed the study. NBT and LAT performed data collection and analysis. NBT, LAT, and BJT interpreted results and drafted manuscript. NBT, LAT, and BJT edited and revised the manuscript. NBT, LAT, and BJT approved the final draft.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interest associated with the production of this study. Data are presented clearly, honestly, and without fabrication, falsification, or inappropriate data manipulation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Academy of Sport and Physical ActivitySheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK
  2. 2.School of Biomedical SciencesUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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