The extent to which plasma endotoxin concentrations increased was measured in 89 randomly selected exhausted runners who required admission to the medical tent for treatment in the 1986 Comrades Marathon (89,4 km). Eighty-one per cent had concentrations above the upper limit of 0,1 ng/ml ('endotoxaemic'), including 2% above 1 ng/ml (the reported lethal level in humans), and only 19% had normal levels. There was a negative correlation between plasma endotoxin and plasma anti-endotoxin IgG concentration (P less than 0,025). Those runners completing the race in less than 8 hours had a significantly lower average endotoxin value than those taking longer than 8 hours (P less than 0,025). Also 80,6% of runners (58/72) with high plasma endotoxin values reported nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, compared with 17,7% (3/17; P less than 0,001) with low endotoxin values. Elevated plasma endotoxin concentrations of 32 randomly selected endotoxaemic runners had returned to normal 1-3 weeks later, and most of them (25/32) had increased anti-endotoxin IgG concentrations (P less than 0,02). Fifty-nine runners randomly selected in a short run (21,1 km) 3 weeks after the 89,4 km run completed the race without problems and none showed any increase in endotoxin levels. Further studies in this field are warranted, especially the measurement of endotoxin and anti-endotoxin values from commencement of training to full fitness. It is possible that these measurements may prove useful as predictors of an athlete's or combat soldier's performance.