Endurance athletes are some of the most rigorously conditioned athletes. They’re most visible in sports involving running, swimming, cycling and rowing. Athletes competing in these sports train to have a higher VO2Max than the average individual due to the higher amount of oxygen needed to sustain the muscles for a very long period of time.
Beyond conventional endurance events lies triathlons. Triathlons are an Olympic recognised sport with etymological origins from Greek that mean three competitions. They consist of three events in order: swimming, cycling and running. An Olympic triathlon covers a distance of swimming 1.5km, a bike ride of 40km and a run of 10km. Athletes begin with a swim and have marker aids available that show the route of the course. After swim comes a transition area where athletes have to get bikes off a rack for the next event which is cycling.
They aren’t allowed to start cycling or in some triathlons even get on the bike unless helmet and shoes are worn. The course typically takes place on public roads. However, if the need arises that roads need to stay open, traffic coordinators help the athletes navigate the course. Aid stations or race sanctioned aid volunteers are stationed along the way providing athletes with refreshments such as water, energy bars or fruit. A transition area marks the end of the cycling event where the athletes dock their bikes and switch into running shoes for the final event. Aid stations are also present on the marked path to help with energy or nourishment during the course.
Triathlons, Olympics and local sporting events provide an adequate challenge. For the well seasoned athletes, there are individual events of ultra marathon, long distance swimming and ultra distance cycling. These are definitely not for the average person as each one of them tests and push the limits of maximum human endurance.
Ultra running (Source: Instagram/Taher Merchant)
In India, Solang SkyUltra is a skyrunning event that makes the runner endure the trials of Solang valley with a total distance of 100km to be covered in only 30 hours. Temperatures vary anywhere from 10oC to 30oC and the runner gains a total elevation of 6,260m throughout the distance. Another example is Hell Ultra located in the Manali - Leh highway. Doing justice to its name, Hell Ultra is 480km long with a total elevation gain of 10,000m to be completed in 120 hours. To add onto the existing challenges, the runner endures temperatures ranging anywhere from -10oC to 30oC. Runners are required to submit a medical certificate showing that they are in stable condition to participate.
Ultra distance cycling is an event similar to ultra marathons where cyclists endure the long distance cycle rides which are 160km+ to qualify as ultra distance. Though not as common as it is across different countries, Indians organise self supported long distance cycling. The Transcontinental Race is a notorious self supported annual race across Europe covering anywhere from 3,200 to 4,200km. Being self supported, drafting, aid from friends/family or other races counts as disqualification. From the moment the race begins, the timer doesn’t stop and cyclists must strategise and divide time properly to ensure their finish.
Long distance swimming is distinguished from ordinary swimming in that the distances involved are longer than are typically swum in pool competitions. It is also referred to as marathon swimming. Some of the better-known long-distance swims are crossings of the English Channel, Catalina Channel and Cook Strait to name a few. Swimmers may receive aid from boats to clear waves or tides, and nourishment every 20 or 30 minutes. Long distance swimming is one of the very few events where women’s record surpasses men’s records under equal conditions.
These endurance challenges push an individual to mental and physical limits. Training may take several years but the satisfaction at the end of the finish line leaves a lasting impression on the athlete demonstrating what they are capable of.