Gastrointestinal distress is common during a 161-km ultramarathon

J Sports Sci. 2015;33(17):1814-21. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2015.1012104. Epub 2015 Feb 26.


This study examined the incidence, severity, and timing of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in finishers and non-finishers of the 161-km Western States Endurance Run. A total of 272 runners (71.0% of starters) completed a post-race questionnaire that assessed the incidence and severity (none = 0, mild = 1, moderate = 2, severe = 3, very severe = 4) of 12 upper (reflux/heartburn, belching, stomach bloating, stomach cramps/pain, nausea, vomiting) and lower (intestinal cramps/pain, flatulence, side ache/stitch, urge to defecate, loose stool/diarrhoea, intestinal bleeding/bloody faeces) GI symptoms experienced during each of four race segments. GI symptoms were experienced by most runners (96.0%). Flatulence (65.9% frequency, mean value 1.0, s = 0.6 severity), belching (61.3% frequency, mean value 1.0, s = 0.6 severity), and nausea (60.3% frequency, mean value 1.0, s = 0.7 severity) were the most common symptoms. Among race finishers, 43.9% reported that GI symptoms affected their race performance, with nausea being the most common symptom (86.0%). Among race non-finishers, 35.6% reported that GI symptoms were a reason for dropping out of the race, with nausea being the most common symptom (90.5%). For both finishers and non-finishers, nausea was greatest during the most challenging and hottest part of the race. GI symptoms are very common during ultramarathon running, and in particular, nausea is the most common complaint for finishers and non-finishers.

Keywords: gastrointestinal symptoms; nausea; ultramarathon running.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eructation / etiology
  • Female
  • Flatulence / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*