Hematological parameters and blood markers that indicate oxidative stress, such as lipid peroxides (LPO), reduced and oxidized glutathione (GSH, GSSG), superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), were measured in 18 marathon runners before, immediately after the race, and after 8 days of rest. In parallel, the oxygen radical generation of neutrophils (PMN) was measured by chemiluminescence in six randomly selected runners. After the race, a 4.4-fold enhanced PMN count and a 1.4-fold increased capacity to generate oxygen radicals of the PMN (2.20+/-0.38 vs. 3.12+/-0.69 arb. unit/10(6) cells) were found. Consequently, a 6.25-fold increased capacity to generate oxygen radicals of the post-run blood (7.26+/-1.3 vs. 45.40+/-10.3 arb. unit/ml blood) was calculated. This points to PMN as an important oxygen radical source established in the runners' blood, which could contribute to the oxidative stress indicated in the post-run blood by increased LPO (11.46+/-3.09 vs. 13.09+/-3.14 micromol/l plasma), GSSG (0.038+/-0.003 vs. 0.045+/-0. 005 mmol/l blood) and GSSG/GSH ratio (3.8+/-0.5 vs. 4.1+/-0.6%) and by decreased SOD (15.63+/-1.78 vs. 14.58+/-1.51 10(3)U/mmol Hb) and GSH-Px (485.1+/-107.1 vs. 434.9+/-101.7 U/mmol Hb). Despite the decline of the oxygen radical source during rest, the oxidative stress in the blood did not decrease in all runners.