Photo by Lucas Favre (Unsplash)

For top-level female athletes it is a challenge balancing professional life, maternity leave, and returning to competition after it. Allyson Felix, a renowned champion, faced difficulties with her sponsor when renegotiating funding contracts after pregnancy.

When studying the career progression of elite marathon runners and how age influences performance, it was found that the marathon peak performance occurred around 28.5 years for women, although many elite runners continued to perform well beyond 40 years.

Therefore, elite sportswomen often choose to temporarily interrupt competition, rather than wait until retirement, to have children.

A recent study aimed to investigate the impact of mid-career maternity on performance progression among elite female marathoners.


Participants and Data Collection

The study identified the top 150 female marathoners listed in the IAAF’s All-Time Marathon Top List and included them in the study if they had at least one maternity during their careers.



The study confirmed the well-established age-performance relationship observed in various disciplines, including running. Peak performance tends to occur at a certain age, after which there is a decline in performance. In the case of elite female marathoners, the peak performance age was found to be around 28.5 years.

The study demonstrated that maternity does not alter this age-performance model. Athletes who experience maternity before the age of peak performance can still progress in their careers and achieve their best performance after maternity. Similarly, those who experience maternity after reaching peak performance would experience performance decline regardless of motherhood.

The length of the maternity break varied significantly among the studied athletes, ranging from 9 to 94 months. The study showed that some athletes can quickly recover and return to a highly competitive level after a shorter break, while others may require longer breaks before reaching the international level again. Younger athletes tend to recover more quickly and achieve higher performance levels after motherhood.

The study’s limitations include the lack of data on athletes who may have chosen not to return after maternity or were unable to return to the international level. Further research on mid-career maternity in other sports could provide a deeper understanding of the impact of pregnancy on athletes’ careers and life balance.



  • Elite female marathoners can continue to perform at their best after pregnancy.
  • The timing of pregnancy relative to the age of peak performance plays a critical role in determining an athlete’s ability to return to and surpass previous performance levels.
  • Overall, this research contributes to destigmatizing motherhood among elite female athletes and highlights the importance of strategic planning and support for athletes during and after maternity.


For more information about pregnancy and sports, and more specifically running check our previous posts:



Does maternity during sports career jeopardize future athletic success in elite marathon runners? Forstmann N, Meignié A, De Larochelambert Q, Duncombe S, Schaal K, Maître C, Toussaint JF, Antero J. Eur J Sport Sci. 2023 Jun;23(6):896-903.

doi: 10.1080/17461391.2022.2089054. Epub 2022 Jun 26. PMID: 35703008.

MARATHON 119: UTRSC SANTA CRUZ (07/31/2023 – Santa Cruz, Portugal)

As the holidays began, we had the opportunity to run the Santa Cruz trail marathon again, starting and finishing in the village/beach of Santa Cruz, near Torres Vedras, about 60 kilometres from Lisbon.

We had previously run the 2021 edition, at an earlier time, as there were nighttime mobility restrictions due to Covid at that time. With the start at 18.30, there are also races of 12 and 22k.

Despite only two years having passed, I didn’t remember much of the course, except that I thought certain sections of the trail would be challenging to navigate at night due to their rugged terrain.

With heat, although not too intense at that hour, we set off. The first section is a 22k stretch that will bring us back to Santa Cruz, featuring beautiful landscapes mostly following the coastline. Among the highlights, the views and crossing of the long Azul Beach.

We then embark on the second part of the race with only the marathon participants. This segment covers another 20k. Shortly after leaving Santa Cruz, it is time to use the headlamp to see where I step. Some of the most challenging areas are here, due to the rugged terrain and dense vegetation, as well as the attention needed not to lose sight of the reflective ribbons, which, at certain intervals, indicate the path to follow.

Despite the challenges, I don’t lose my way, and upon reaching the aid station at the abandoned monastery, I know that an ascent awaits me. I take it easy to maintain balance, knowing that what follows will be much easier. Moments of complete solitude allow me to enjoy the nighttime silence in the wilderness as I make my way back toward the coastal area of Porto Novo, with the final aid station.

From there, it is simply a matter of continuing, mostly in a straight line with the sea to the right, towards the finish line. In the vicinity of Santa Cruz, the section with planks over the beach arrives. There is only a small ascent left, and there is the finish line.

I cross it in 4.32.18, 16 minutes faster than in 2021, securing the 25th position out of 41 finishers. Pleased with the result and the opportunity to add a marathon to my list in the always challenging month of July. Now, all that is left is to catch an Uber back to Lisbon since there is no public transportation options until the following morning.

We will return (or at least try) on a future occasion to a marathon that we would highly recommend to fellow marathon runners, both for its beauty and good organisation.


Photo by Kalen Emsley (Unsplash)

Trail running is an emergent endurance running discipline that takes place in open country on unpaved surfaces. It includes various distances, with ultramarathons (>42k) being the most popular.

Running on steep terrains alters the running parameters, with uphill running characterized by a concentric phase and downhill running dominated by an eccentric phase, being the concentric phase approximately 3–5 times more energetically demanding than the eccentric one.

Pacing strategy significantly affects ultratrail performance. Positive pacing, where runners slow down throughout the race, except for a final spurt, is commonly observed. Even pacing, with minimal speed variation, has been associated with better finish times.

Factors such as performance level, sex, and age can influence pacing strategy, although findings are inconsistent. Extrinsic factors like terrain also impact pacing strategy.

Previous studies have focused on specific races or factors, and a comprehensive analysis using a large dataset from multiple races is still missing. Such analysis would provide valuable information to optimize training and performance.

Photo by Guille Pozzi (Unsplash)

The study

A recent study analyzed data from four popular trail running races held within the past five years:  the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB), the Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix (CCC), the Javelina 100 km and the Javelina 100 miles. A total of 16,518 athletes (14,330 male and 2,188 female) were included with the race course characteristics retrieved from the official event guides.

Regarding the athletes, they were categorized, and three datasets analysed: all finishers, elite men (top 10 men from each race), and elite women (top 10 women from each race).

As for the terrain, the analysis categorized it into uphill, downhill, or level sections based on the elevation profile between two consecutive checkpoints, and further categorized as belonging to the first or second half of the race. Sections characterized as mixed or flat were excluded.

Thus, three values were calculated:

  1. Average Race Speed (ARS)
  2. Average Speed of each Section (ASS)
  3. Pacing strategy, evaluated as Relative Section Speed percentage (RSS) and calculated as (ASS/ARS) × 100.



  • Faster finishers tended to run faster in downhill sections and slower in uphill ones.
  • Differences in pacing strategy between faster and slower finishers increased in later stages.
  • In later stages there was a general tendency to slow down more in downhill sections than in uphill sections.
  • Among elite athletes, no significant differences in pacing strategy were observed.
  • Women paced less evenly than men and slowed down more in downhill sections in the later race stages.



  • The study did not include flat sections and the steepness of uphill and downhill sections due to inconsistent data availability.

Future studies should focus on examining how terrain steepness and flat sections affect pacing strategy in ultratrail races.

Photo by Todd Diemer (Unsplash)


Downhill Sections Are Crucial for Performance in Trail Running Ultramarathons-A Pacing Strategy Analysis. Genitrini M, Fritz J, Zimmermann G, Schwameder H. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2022 Nov 21;7(4):103. doi: 10.3390/jfmk7040103


Jemima Sumgong Rio 2016
Rio 2016 logo

Rio de Janeiro won the bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games against the candidatures of Madrid, Chicago and Tokyo. These were the first Olympic Games in South America, and the first held in in the host country’s winter season.

The women’s marathon at the 2016 Summer Olympics took was scheduled on 14 August on the Sambadrome, over a course where runners had to run 3 laps.

Almost all the favourites were the African runners who had shined in the last World Championships of Beijing 2015. For Ethiopia the world champion Mare Dibaba, for Kenya Helah Kiprop (2nd) and Jemima Sumgong (4th), and now competing for Bahrein, but born in Kenya, Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (3rd).

Sumgong was born in the Nandi District in Kenya. She began competing abroad already in 2004, winning her first races, many of them in US soil. Her first marathon was in Las Vegas in 2006, which she won in 2.35.22. At the 2007 Frankfurt Marathon she came fourth, improving her PB to 2.29.41. Shortly afterwards she married, taking a break during the 2009 season before returning in the San Diego Marathon of 2010. After the birth of her daughter, the next season she won the Castellon Marathon with 2.28.32. From that point onwards she finished in top positions in World Marathon Majors, although missing top spot. Finishing 4th in the Beijing World Championships of 2015, she ensured a victory in the London Marathon of 2016. Rio 2016 could be the time to finally claim the show, after a long and successful running career.

At 9:30 in the morning, the Rio 2016 women´s marathon started with temperatures around 19°C and noticeable humidity. With sparse shade, the bright sun was going to be directly overhead of the runners for most of the course. The pace was consistent from the outset, passing the 5k in 17.23 with most of the main contenders at the front. Desiree Linden from the US moved to the front and reduced the pack from 30 women to 13 just before the 10k mark (34.22).

The next section showed some movements. Before the 18k Ethiopians Tufa, the 2015 London Marathon winner, suddenly stopped, and soon after Volha Mazuronak of Belarus moved to the front, pushing the pace. The remaining runners with her reached the 20k in 1.09.07 and the halfway point in 1.12.56.

Things didn´t change much in the next section, although the leading group consisted of 7 runners when crossing the 30k in 1.43.21. Kenyan Kiprop and US Amy Cragg and Desiree Linden were already falling behind.

At the 36k mark Kirwa, Dibaba and Sumgong opened a gap. With 2.15.00 on the clock, Sumgong surged at front, with only Kirwa able to go with her. Heading towards the Sambadrome Kirwa was 5s behind and too tired to challenge Sumgong.

Therefore, Sumgong crossed first the finish line in 2.24.04, to win the first woman Olympic marathon title for Kenya. She had run the second half of the race almost two minutes quicker than the first. Completing the podium were Kirwa (2.24.13), winning for Bahrain its second ever Olympic medal in any sport, and Dibaba (2.24.30) for Ethiopia.

All members of the US team, Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden and Amy Cragg finished inside the top-10. Likewise, three pairs of twins finished the marathon: two of the Luik triplets from Estonia, the Hahner from Germany and the Kim from North Korea.

Regarding Sumgong´s racing career it didn´t go well after Rio 2016. In 2017, two weeks before the London Marathon, was suspended for 4 years because of erythropoietin doping. Her doping ban was doubled to 8 years, accused of forging her medical records, and re-started in 2019. She will be unable to compete until 2027, meaning probably the end of her sports career. 

Jemima Sumgong victorious in the marathon of Rio 2016


Resistance (anaerobic) exercise (Photo by Anastase Maragos (Unsplash))

Creatine is synthesized in the body, primarily in kidneys, liver, and pancreas, and can also be obtained exogenously through the diet (seafood, red meat, and poultry) or supplements. It is primarily stored in muscles, with a majority as phosphocreatine (PCr) and the rest as free creatine.

Supplementation with creatine has been shown to improve power, endurance, and strength in resistance training.

However, when it comes to endurance performance, the effects of creatine are less clear.

  • Negative effects: some studies suggest that creatine may have a negative impact on endurance performance due to water retention and an increase in body mass.
  • Positive effects: creatine supplementation can enhance glycogen resynthesis, buffering capacity, and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, potentially improving endurance performance and recovery by countering the gains in body mass.

The effectiveness of creatine supplementation may depend on factors such as exercise intensity, anaerobic work capacity, and the recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibres.

It seems to be more beneficial in high-intensity races or activities that involve bursts of high-intensity efforts. In continuous, steady-state moderate-intensity endurance exercise, creatine is unlikely to have a significant benefit.

Based on the current scientific evidence, recommendations for practical application of creatine supplementation include a loading phase followed by a maintenance dose.

Creatine monohydrate is the most researched form, and co-ingestion with carbohydrates may enhance its uptake. Response to creatine may vary among individuals, and it is advised to experiment with the supplementation during off-season periods.

Ball-and-stick model of a creatine molecule, C4H9N3O2


  • While there is evidence supporting the potential benefits of creatine supplementation for enhancing endurance performance, the effects can vary depending on factors such as exercise type, intensity, and individual response.
  • The increase in body mass caused by creatine may be detrimental for endurance sports, but it shows promise for improving the ability to change pace and perform fast-finishing sprints.
  • Further research is needed to fully understand the impact of creatine on endurance performance.



Creatine supplementation and endurance performance: surges and sprints to win the race. Forbes SC, Candow DG, Neto JHF, Kennedy MD, Forbes JL, Machado M, Bustillo E, Gomez-Lopez J, Zapata A, Antonio J. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2023 Dec;20(1):2204071.

Endurance (aerobic) exercise (Photo by Aldrin Rachman Pradana (Unsplash))


Start area

Being near Vitoria and having run its marathon in 2004, for one reason or another, it’s a race I hadn’t returned to. Usually, it coincided with the Eco-Lisbon Marathon. However, this year I took the opportunity to revisit a race of which I barely had any memories.

Arriving on Saturday around lunchtime, we have some time to kill before heading to El Boulevard Shopping Center to pick up the race bib. For some reason, bib collection isn’t done continuously, and I’m not sure why because there was no race expo or anything similar, just a small booth on the second floor of the mall.

With the race bag and bib in hand, and with rain in the forecast, it’s time to take the opportunity to visit the historic city center before retiring early to rest.

On race day, with rainiy overcast and a few drops already falling, I head to the Mendizorroza area, where the start and finish lines are located. Alongside the marathon, there will also be a half marathon and a 10k race taking place simultaneously. I leave my backpack at the last moment to avoid getting cold. It’s about 10°C.

Without any corrals or separation between the different races, around 2,500 runners set off at 9:00. These first moments are not easy, not only due to the crowds but also because the route at this point doesn’t follow wide streets.

Shortly after starting, I have to make a brief stop to tie a shoelace. A rookie mistake not to have checked that it was properly tied. It’s not much of an inconvenience, though, and I quickly get back to my pace.

Not far from the times of my previous marathons, I manage to reach the half marathon mark in 1.53.04. It’s time to go for the second lap, which largely follows the same route of the first.

Amid intermittent downpours that make difficult to run as comfortably as one could, especially for those of us who perform better in milder temperatures, I slowly see the kilometers go by. With  fewer runners on the course, I try to overtake as many as possible.

Finally, I reach the finish line at a good pace, with a net time of 3.47.58.

The worst part is not the exhaustion from the race or finishing soaked, but rather finding out after collecting the clothes that most of them are wet, because the backpacks weren’t adequately protected outside.

Things shouldn’t be done like this, Martín Fiz. In a marathon that has reached its twentieth edition, these details could have been taken into account, especially when there is no shortage of sports facilities or more iconic locations for bib collection.

We’ll consider whether it’s worth repeating next year.

Runners expo (kind of)


Runners expo

Madrid has always been one of the most classic marathons at the national level. It’s the place where I made my debut in 2000 and crossed the threshold of 100 marathons in 2021. This was going to be my seventh participation. This year, I chose it after reading that the route had been slightly modified to pass through the most emblematic places in Madrid, such as Puerta del Sol.

You can tell it’s a marathon with extensive experience, and its expo, held in one of the pavilions of IFEMA, doesn’t disappoint, offering a wide variety of stalls, both for sales and other races. I visit it late in the morning, with a large crowd, although it doesn’t take us much time to collect the bib and race bag and go sightseeing in the city.

Race day dawns with good weather forecast. Alongside the marathon, there’s also a 10K race, starting at 8.30. I walk from my accommodation near Atocha to the start area. The marathon starts in waves, every 5 minutes, with mine scheduled for 9:20. I arrive just in time after dropping off my baggage at the gear area, and feeling a bit confused, I can no longer enter the 9.20 box. I move to the next one, at 9.25, where I move near the front. The return train is shortly after 15 and I already feel that I don’t have much room for unexpected events if I want to make it on time.

The start on Paseo de la Castellana reminds me of the 2021 edition, which was one of the first large-scale races after Covid, where despite the numerous runners, there was an almost sepulchral silence during those first kilometers, straight and slightly uphill. It has always been an area with few spectators, a place to become aware of oneself and what lies ahead.

Wating the start

From there, and away from the pace groups, I try to follow the strategy from previous races, adjusting my splits to 16 minutes every 3 kilometers, aiming for a final time around 3 hours and 45 minutes. In the early kilometers, I try not to get carried away, even though my legs are asking for more, but I already know that it usually takes a toll on me in the second half of the race.

Fortunately, it seems that the Clarete Marathon from the previous week hasn’t had much impact on my legs, and I can maintain a steady pace without much trouble. Just as methodical as with the paces, I manage to be with gels. Maybe it’s excessive for some, but I find that 5 is a good number, both for logistical reasons (carrying more would be challenging in the waist belt) and in terms of kilometers, as I take one every 6 kilometers starting from kilometer 12 (then 18, 24, 30, and 36).

I reach the halfway point with a time of 1.53.01. Not far from the goal. The heat is starting to be noticeable, and I try to drink isotonic beverages at every aid station where they are available. As we have mentioned in some of our blog posts, in hot conditions, one must be careful with hydration, obviously, but also avoid dangerous hyponatremia in case of excessive water intake. Therefore, in hot weather, and when drinking in large quantities, it is more advisable to turn to isotonic drinks to maintain the concentration of electrolytes in the blood.

Anyone who has run Madrid knows that reaching Casa de Campo means entering the last quarter of the race, but also encountering the “wall” and some of the toughest inclines of this marathon. Fortunately, it also offers shaded areas, welcomed at this hour, as the heat is already punishing us relentlessly.

After overcoming this part, it’s time to head back towards the center of Madrid, where the crowd pushes us when our legs can’t. Memories come to mind of past editions, from the sounds of the “caceroladas” from the balconies to the music zones, like the one with “Chariots of Fire” on Avenida de Valladolid. Glimpses of what it was like to run in bygone eras…

Pushing in the final kilometers, I manage to cross the finish line in 3.51.51, which, although far from my PB on this course, is still 3 minutes better than my 2021 time. Satisfied with the result, I don’t have time to waste in collecting my bag, changing clothes hurriedly on a bench, and head towards Chamartín.

Thus, we consider our participation in Mapoma concluded, certain that we will be back for future occasions. Thank you for making it this far.



Course profile

Looking for routes for clandestine marathons during the pandemic, I saw in Santovenia de Pisuerga the beginning of a new long-distance path, the GR-296, which stuck in my head to try to do it in its entirety, or at least in part, in another moment. With its 93 kilometres in length, it covers, mostly on paths, some of the closest villages to Valladolid, various places where I have trained regularly. When I read the first news that a marathon was being planned taking advantage of part of this route, I was hopeful for a new opportunity to have a marathon in Valladolid.

As the months went by, things became more specific until they took shape in this 1st Clarete Marathon, which, starting in Santovenia de Pisuerga, runs through Cigales, Mucientes, Fuensaldaña, the Fuente el Sol Park and Canal de Castilla to end in Santovenia.

Along with the marathon modality, a relay marathon is also offered. Being a first edition, and being “in tests”, not being competitive in the strict sense of the word, it is neutralized at each control/drinks station. Thus, we regroup in each village where we arrive to wait for the last runner, and again together start the next section.

At the start we gathered about 30 participants for the “solo” edition and approximately a dozen of the first relay in the team modality. Among the attendees some familiar faces, true marathon collectors who could not miss a first edition.

A little late, we leave for the first stop, which will be in Cigales, at the foot of its impressive church, and from there towards Mucientes. From this point the course is very recognizable to me.

Runners in Fuensaldaña

All in all, an opportunity to enjoy the fields of Castilla, with their brown colours and vineyards. Next stop Fuensaldaña, at the foot of its castle. It is from there where we approach Valladolid, entering through the Fuente el Sol Park, which has seen better days. Regrouped next to the Canal de Castilla, all that remains is to take its channel for a couple of kilometres, turn right and take the road that leads back to Santovenia. Perhaps the least attractive segment, following the lateral of the Cementerio del Carmen.

Despite the numerous stops, in the end this marathon also ends up being hard, due to the constant changes in pace and the roughness of the route in some sections. After all, they are still 42 kilometres to run.

Even so, I manage to finish in 3.57.50. Happy to finish a marathon in Pucela lands, and with the hope that the race manages to settle on the calendar, it was time to rest for the Mapoma the following week.

See you.

Views from the course


Start area

When I ran the marathon in Barcelona in 2018 I told myself that it would surely take a long time to return. The political situation with the independence movement was palpable in the air, and the atmosphere was not good in the city.

When I was planning the 2023 marathon season, I found a direct flight from my city for only 5 euros, which made me decide to give the city a chance again. Fortunately, the situation was much calmer, and the experience has been as positive as I would have expected.

With more than 10,000 runners in the streets and excellent weather, I turned to face its 42 kilometres, with staggered starts from 8:30.

This time, unlike Murcia the month before, I decided to keep the pace away from the 3h45m group. Mentally it is not difficult to plan 16-minute partials every 3 kilometres.

This being the case, I practically nailed the splits until kilometre 28, which I crossed with a small margin to my goal. At this point the temperature was considerably higher than at the start, requiring more hydration at the aid stations, preferably isotonic, to avoid dehydration and the much more dangerous hyponatremia.

Although slightly slowing down in the port area with less public and coinciding with the “wall”, I still manage to overcome runners as we enter the centre of Barcelona again. There the public turns to cheer on the needy runners.

I face the finish line, knowing that this marathon is already mine. I finish with a net time of 3.45.43. Marathon 73 sub 4h, 57 in Spain and 115 of the total.

After Easter we are expected to have the Clarete Marathon, a new marathon in the province of Valladolid, and again, for the seventh time, the Madrid Marathon.

Greetings, and until the next starting line.

Finisher medal


LLeida Marathon start

Writing this entry has taken time, a lot… but some things take precedence over others, and sometimes one is unable to dedicate time to everything. 

After the Vienna marathon in April, I had planned that the next one would be the Poitiers-Futuroscope in May, which I finally couldn’t run. And there began a long summer period of marathon drought that I did not break until the Logroño marathon, just started October. Thus, I repeated the marathon that I had already visited the previous year with the incentive that the registration fee was reimbursed by the organization. I finished in 3.52.57 in 150th position out of 243 runners. 

At the end of October, I run the newly organised Lleida Marathon, taking advantage of the All-Saints’ long weekend. A course with a round trip, not very attractive, although a race with potential for improvement and growth in the coming years. I finished in 3.55.29 and position 164 out of 263. 

And I closed the marathon year once again in the San Sebastián Marathon, in what was my fifth participation and my worst time to date, narrowly ending another sub 4h marathon, in 3.58.38 and ranked 1,497 out of 1,982 participants, continuing an increasing path in terms of times. 

To end the year, I also participated in the San Silvestre El Corte Inglés in Lisbon, on a 10k route.  

In marathon terms, the year was summed up in 10 marathons, 8 of them under 4 hours, and a season best of 3.42.41. 

Starting in 2023, the only marathon I had signed up for was Murcia, on February 5th, which was the last pre-pandemic marathon I ran in 2020. After missing a solidarity marathon in Burgos, between a cold and the snow, the Murcia Marathon offered 3 years later an ideal weather to run a marathon in winter. 

With more modest pretensions than on previous occasions, I got hooked almost from the start to the 3h45m group, after having deliberately lost 1 minute in crossing the starting arc. Certainly, I feel energized to attempt the breakaway, although I decide to reserve my strength and continue with the pack. 

After the half marathon in 1.51.14, Lola easily surpasses me. With a cadence that seems to require no effort, I am unable to keep up with her. Shortly afterwards Carlos also goes ahead. After the 30k I start falling off the group, although keeping them in sight. 

Catching a glimpse of Carlos, I manage to reconnect, running with him for the last few kilometres. Maintaining a good pace, I cross the finish line in 3.45.58 (net time), 303 out of 507 finishers. 

First marathon of 2023 and 114th of the total. 

Still undecided about which will be my next stop, we continue… 

Logroño Marathon Medal
Murcia Marathon Medal