Stress related changes during a half marathon in master endurance athletes

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Apr;55(4):329-36. Epub 2014 Oct 10.


Aim: The aim of the present study was to investigate heart rate (HR), salivary cortisol (sC) alpha-amylase (sAA) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) in relation to competition outcome during a half marathon.

Methods: HR was monitored and salivary samples were collected during an official half marathon in five Master endurance runners (age 47 ± 7 years). RPE was collected using a 100-mm Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) 30 minutes after the end of competition.

Results: Performance corresponded to 94% of their personal best (PB). Athletes spent 53.7% of total race time at intensities above 95% HRmax. RPE showed values of 68 ± 8 mm. With respect to pre-competition values (25.54 ± 6.39 nmol/L), sC concentrations significantly increased (P=0.043) by 59% immediately after the race (40.54 ± 3.95 nmol/L) and remained elevated until 1 h post exercise. Pre-competition sAA concentrations (90.59 ± 42.86 U/mL) were 118% higher (P=0.043) with respect to time-matched baseline values (197.92 ± 132 U/mL). sAA increased (192%; P=0.043) immediately after the race and was higher than time-matched resting samples. The better each athlete performed the greater cortisol increase during exercise (P<0.001). Performance was not correlated to the anticipatory sAA (the percent difference between pre-competition values and time-matched baseline ones) or to the sAA increase during exercise.

Conclusion: This is the first attempt to study the stress-related responses during official endurance competitions in master runners. Although the strict criteria of inclusion might have limited the statistical significance, the present findings indicate that endurance competition is a remarkable stressor for psycho-physiological aspects of master athletes.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Endurance
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Running*
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • alpha-Amylases / analysis*


  • alpha-Amylases
  • Hydrocortisone