Some time ago exercise physiologists thought that the VO2max was the single determinant of human exercise performance in the respiratory system, assuming that maximal ventilation could be maintained indefinitely.

Nowadays it is known that inspiratory muscles tire with exercise, and that the increased work of breathing during exercise also demands higher blood flow from the circulatory system in order to sustain muscle contraction. This effect is called “inspiratory muscle metaboreflex”, and is caused by the accumulation of metabolites in the respiratory muscles, which trigger a widespread vasoconstriction in order to allow a higher blood flow in the lungs.

Muscle fatigue and vasoconstriction are limiting factors of physical performance, and give way to the so-called respiratory muscle fatigue, or RMF, firstly described in marathon runners during the 1980s.

Measuring maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP) it was found that after running a marathon there was a fall in MIP, with no alteration in the maximal expiratory pressure (MEP). Consequently they talked about an inspiratory muscle fatigue, or IMF, without expiratory muscle fatigue, or EMF.

The overall effect would be:

                                                           RMF = IMF + EMF

               (Respiratory Muscle Fatigue = Inspiratory Muscle Fatigue + Expiratory Muscle Fatigue)

When using a ventilator to help with the inspiration process during breathing it was found a 4.3% increase in leg blood flow. On the contrary, when the ventilator was used to add resistance to the breathing process, leg blood flow decreased by 7%, worsening leg fatigue.

There is evidence that strengthening of respiratory muscles can potentially improve physical performance. The strengthening procedures are defined as respiratory muscle training, or RMT, and they could be focused on inspiratory or expiratory muscles, therefore distinguishing between IMT (Inspiratory Muscle Training) and EMT (Expiratory Muscle Training).

Among the physiological effects to consider after RMT:

  • diaphragm hypertrophy
  • change of muscle fibers (increasing proportion of type I and size of type II)
  • improved neural control of respiratory muscles
  • increased respiratory muscle economy (reducing work of breathing)
  • attenuation of the respiratory muscle metaboreflex (therefore preventing blood diversion away from limbs)
  • decrease in perceived breathlessness and exertion (allowing longer exercise times until exhaustion)

RMT exercises can have exercise intensity fixed, with the physical activity carried away until exhaustion, or time trials. Time to exhaustion is sensitive to small physiological improvements, making it a good indicator of training procedures.

Among the methods we could talk about:

  • Endurance training, using voluntary hyperpnea. It involves recruiting respiratory muscles during deep breaths. It requires to learn correctly the techniques, used in many relaxing/meditation procedures.
  • Resistance training, with external loads in mouth position. It involves using a device, with many commercially available. One of the most popular categories is the linear pressure resistors (LPR), which are affordable and can be easily used in training.

The LPR devices facilitate IMT, as they offer different resistance levels and a chance of evaluation and exercise prescription.

In disease patients and healthy individuals IMT improved physical performance, mainly by improving blood flow distribution.

For athletes, with usually good respiratory function due to years of training, there is no clear protocol defined. Also there are differences depending on the sport type. In aquatic and intermittent disciplines (basketball, football, tennis, etc) the energy is mainly coming from glycolytic pathways, while endurance sports (running, cycling, rowing, etc) use oxidative pathways, which require more oxygen to keep energy levels for longer periods.

IMT is clearly an ergogenic agent in non-aquatic sports, by helping to reduce fatigue and energy expenditure in respiratory muscles. Thus IMT should be introduced in training routines to get an extra advantage and improve performance. Improvements were found in athletes when exercising respiratory muscles twice daily, and at least three times per week.

Don´t forget to train your respiratory muscles, they can be your secret weapon to improve your personal best.



Respiratory muscle training as an ergogenic aid.

AK McConnell

J Exerc Sci Fit, Vol 7, No 2 (Suppl), S18–S27, 2009


Inspiratory flow resistive loading improves respiratory muscle function and endurance capacity in recreational runners.

TD Mickleborough, T Nichols, MR Lindley, K Chatham, AA. Ionescu

Scand J Med Sci Sports 2010: 20: 458–468


Recent advancements in our understanding of the ergogenic effect of respiratory muscle training in healthy humans: A systematic review.

R Shei

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, August 2018


The effects of inspiratory muscle training with linear workload devices on the sports performance and cardiopulmonary function of athletes: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

M Karsten, GS Ribeiro, MS Esquivel, DL Matte

Physical Therapy in Sport 34 (2018) 92e104

Human respiratory system
Device for Inspiratory Muscle Training Plus+ . (Courtesy of POWERbreathe Spain)


Trophy and t-shirt
Almagro city hall

Pros: registration fee for Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC); good and personal care for the runners from the organisation; big potential for following years.

Cons: no chip-timing, that probably will be solved by next edition; lack of storage space.

Plaza Mayor

Continuing with the purpose of collecting marathons, this would be my first in the autonomous region of Castilla la Mancha. I had worked in Albacete more than a decade ago, but never run a race here.

Going for its second edition I knew about it in the Valdebebas marathon, back in March, and registered immediately. I have always liked night marathons, but no so much the multi-laps ones. Held at the end of June it looked as the perfect race to enter the summer break. With hot conditions there are no many marathons available in the calendar, or they interfere with holidays.

Traveling to Almagro requires some organisation but having train connections with Madrid always facilitates the process. If the marathon is not for you, you can opt for a half marathon, or be part of a relay for the marathon.

The race course is a 3k triangle following an illuminated and perfectly paved Eco Path in the outskirts of Almagro. For the marathon are necessary 14 laps, and 7 for the half. The loop has 3 different sections: the first with trees, a second following a fence, and a third just entering the village. Start and finish line are in the same place, as it is the stand with water and provisions.

For a 22.00 start, with 27-28°C, there are about 40 runners for the full distance, and twice as many for the half marathon. Among the marathon runners there are some familiar faces (Quique, Pepe, Santi, Txema, Antonio…). These low-key races far from the crowded ones are often a chance to meet friends.

From start, front runners go ahead quickly. I get installed in a small group, but after the first lap they go ahead. From the second lap onwards I will run alone, drinking often because of the high temperatures, and planning my energy gels for laps 3 and 6, and then every two laps, in 8, 10 and 12.

I like the course, and laps start adding. After the 6th, I am doubled by the four runners in front, who are considerably ahead. The half marathon goes in 1.51.20.  Seven more laps and I will be on holidays. I only need to keep the pace and is done. With less runners in the course, sometimes is difficult to see anyone besides the animated group in the finish area.

Although not feeling very tired, pace decays in the second half. I cross the finish line in 3.55.20, a time very similar to the last 2 marathons. After a quick shower I get back to the finish area to welcome the last runners.

Marathon number 10 of the year, only 3 behind the 13 I run in 2018, and a whole 6 months ahead. Nevertheless, summer is probably marathon free. Time to rest, get back to a proper training cycle, and some shorter races to improve on my strength and speed.

Thanks to Miguel Ángel for the organising effort, and a recommendation to visit the Theatre Museum and the “Corral de Comedias” in Almagro, and if your available time is longer, the National Park of the “Tablas de Daimiel”.

Ready to go
Corral de Comedias

ICARUS (2017, 121min, Bryan Fogel)

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”.

George Orwell


Pros: halfway between a sports documentary and a thriller; Grigory Rodchenkov, a funny person for whom we feel sorry, as we suspect he was a victim of the Russian political system.

Cons: unclear if Bryan´s samples tested positive or negative; that is impossible to know how deep and wide the doping use sports is, at professional or even amateur level.

When I found this documentary in a streaming platform, I didn´t know that it had won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2018, neither that it was about doping in sports and had made headlines. It was an obvious and wise choice to watch.

The documentary starts in 2014 with director Bryan Fogel explaining his decision to participate in the hardest amateur cycling event in the world, a seven-day race in the French Alps called Haute Route. An amateur cyclist for many years, he manages to finish in 14th position overall.

Bryan decides to get through a doping programme overseen by a scientist. The documentary initial objective is to prove that he could get through all the doping controls clean and compete with an extra advantage in next year´s Haute Route. This would demonstrate that the system in place to test athletes is not working.

We know from Don Catlin, director of the laboratory that tested Armstrong more than 50 times over his career, that he never failed a test. He decides to step back as the scientist overlooking Bryan doping programme worried about the consequences on his reputation. He recommends a colleague, Russian director of the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow Grigory Rodchenkov.

After talking in the phone, Grigory surprisingly agrees to oversee Brian´s doping schedule. It will consist of injections of human growth hormone and testosterone, plus a lot of pills, while keeping urine samples frozen.

Grigory travels to LA to meet Brian and collect his urine samples, smuggling them in his own luggage for transportation to Moscow. He is a funny character that worked in 1989 in LA, where he won the Santa Monica marathon, who talks naturally about doping and how he was injected stanozolol by his mother.

Just before Haute Route Brian gets a power test where he achieves 350 watts of power, against the 250 before his doping. Nevertheless, he finishes in worse position than the previous year. After the race he travels to Moscow with the last samples for Grigory.

With Brian back in the USA the documentary turns into a thriller. A WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) report about the state-sponsored Russian doping program confirms allegations present in an earlier German documentary pointing to Grigory as one of those responsible of a wide conspiracy to benefit Russian athletes. The report calls for a ban of all Russian athletes of the Rio Olympics. Russian official reaction is denying everything and fires Grigory from his position.

Afraid about his life, Brian helps Grigory to travel to the USA, where he goes into hiding and confess to the New York Times and the Department of Justice about the long Russian doping system, and how he was the mastermind behind it since 2012. He confesses that during Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 many athletes kept using drugs during competition. With KGB´s help, and using an intricate method late at night, when no officials were around, they swapped “dirty” urines for “clean” ones after managing to open intactly the urine bottles.

With all this additional information provided by Grigory Rodchenkov, by June 2016 the IAAF bans the Russian Track and Field team from competing in the Rio Olympics one month in the future. Grigory goes into a witness protection program, saying goodbye to his family, still in Russia, and Brian.

Finally, and despite all the evidence provided, the IOC dismisses WADA´s recommendations and lets Russian athletes to compete in the Rio Olympics, even when the official report stated: “It is impossible to know how deep and how far this conspiracy goes”.

Interviewer: “Have you ever used human growth hormone or any other performance enhancing substance?

Lance Armstrong: “No… I have never taken drugs”

EDP SAN FERMÍN MARATHON (ES) (08/06/19 – 82)

Info pannel
Start / finish line

Pros: flat and varied course; support from volunteers; finish line in the middle of the bull ring.

Cons: lonely last 2 laps for the marathon runners, it could help if it would start earlier.

Coming to this marathon was a last minute decision, but a discount voucher from the organisation got me in Pamplona on Saturday morning. A city famous because of its bull run and not far from my hometown, but where I had never been previously. A marathon was the ideal excuse to pay it a visit.

After my train arrives and I leave the luggage, a short walk gets me to the bullring, focal point of the race. It allocates the start and finish line, and also luggage storage and running expo. Besides the marathon, there are also a relay marathon, half marathon and 10k race. All of them start at 20.00 and use the same course, with the marathon runners doing 4 laps, the half marathon 2, and the 10k runners only 1.

Until lunch I stroll around visiting the old quarter and park area surrounding the external walls. With the race later in the evening I decide to get back to my hotel and get some rest. After managing to get some sleep I start preparing myself and walk back to the start. Runners gather in an adjacent park, and only get allowed to enter the bullring just for the start, as it is not very big. With a late registration I start in the last box, number 3, where I meet Pepe Turón, who was also in last week´s marathon and is close to his 100th marathon.

With around 22°C I cross the start in less than a minute, heading immediately outside the bullring where an enthusiastic crowd supports our initial effort. The course is flat and always inside town. Although it has some zig-zag sections, it never gets boring, intercalating park sections with others following the most central streets.

During these first stages runners are multitude, and it takes me a while to see the 3.45 group. Surprisingly I feel quite recovered from last Sunday´s effort. I took an easy week, with only one running session and another in the swimming pool.  Although tempted to go faster, usually my early efforts make for a hard second half.

With the half marathon done (in 1.51), course empties as only the marathoners are left, and we are not that many.  Night comes, with some dark areas, especially when crossing the parks. At some point the 3.45 small group breaks away, and shortly afterwards runners in the lead start overlapping me. I keep to my own pace while temperature is slowly going down.

Pushing to keep the pace in the last lap I get to the finish line in 3.56.21, and 87 out of 156 finishers. A good experience in a well organised race, and also a nice weekend trip. Probably not the last time I will do it. But next in the calendar is Almagro and its night marathon, in two-week’s time, which will make for the 10th marathon of the year.

Thanks for getting here and see you soon.

City Hall
External walls

REVIEW (part 2): MAURTEN DRINK MIX 320 & 160


Maurten Drink Mix have a light yellowish colour, and even in its more concentrated version, less sweet in the mouth than other commercial drinks. The absence of a vivid colour ensures that is not coming with artificial colouring agents. The light sweetness due to the maltodextrin/fructose mixture, with “sugar” levels in the range of other sports drinks.

When consumed “as breakfast” it successfully replaced my milk drink, and I felt a steadier energy supply. The high sugar content of the milk is giving a peak of carbohydrates shortly after ingestion, while the combination of the maltodextrin/fructose as hydrogel gives a slower release, when reaching the intestine, delaying its energy supply.

During the long training the Maurten 160 was useful to avoid thirst. It tastes good and fulfilled its objective. Probably it also helped to keep the energy levels, but as the energetic needs and rhythm are very different from a competition, that seemed the next step.

Testing the Maurten 320 in racing condition I had to wait for a small marathon. Usually is not possible to get your own fuel station in a big marathon if you are not an elite runner. I used the Maurten 320 in the Mega Challenge Marathon, run over 6 laps, with a table available to keep drinks and not many runners in the field. I only prepared 500mL, and used the drink instead of the gels, until I finished the bottle at the end of lap 4, using gels after that. With cold and rainy conditions, I averaged 125mL per lap, equivalent to around 20g of carbohydrates every 7 kilometres. At the pace I finished the marathon, on muddy off-roads trail course, it would mean 20g, equivalent to 80 kcal, every 40-45 minutes.

When running a marathon, I usually consume 5 energetic gels, starting in the kilometre 12, and then one every 6 kilometres after that. That would amount to 22g carbohydrates, or 87 kcal, every 30-40 minutes, very similar levels to the ones I achieved using the Maurten 320 Drink Mix. It successfully substituted my energy gels while it lasted.

I tested the Maurten 160 in racing conditions, during the Eco Lisbon marathon, a trail marathon held in a park area in Lisbon. I prepared 1L of the Maurten 160 isotonic drink and filled my Camelback. Although I had to drink more liquid besides Maurten 160, as I was running for more than 4 hours in warm conditions, it was my main hydration source. It was useful for keeping me hydrated, and again to maintain my carbohydrates intake and energy levels, although I also used 2 small gels and some pieces of banana given out during the race.



Maurten Drink Mix, especially in its more concentrated version, was useful in providing the carbohydrates before and during a marathon race. I tolerated well the Drink Mix 320, so probably I would opt for it instead of the Drink Mix 160, doubling the carbohydrates intake. Its delicate taste is more pleasant than other available drinks.

I would especially recommend it for racing, although it may not be easy to get access to your own drink during a competition. Additionally, water stations may be at different points on the course, and you would need more than one bottle. 

With a steeper price than other sport drinks per litre, its use would be justified during competition. On a day-by-day basis or during training maybe you could opt for a cheaper choice.  During a race it would ensure the steadiest energy supply in the market while successfully replacing the energy gels. Considering the price of gels Maurten could come up even cheaper.



  • 5 / 5         Drink Mix 320
  • 4.5 / 5      Drink Mix 160.

Pros: easy to carry and prepare in one-dose sachets; nice taste without been sugary; possibility of replacing your usual energy gels.

Cons: maybe the price if you want to use it on an everyday basis.

Extra: there are also Maurten gels available, to be tested on a later occasion.

REVIEW (part 1): MAURTEN DRINK MIX 320 & 160

Hydrogel Sports Fuel MIX BOX
Content of Hydrogel Sports Fuel MIX BOX

After the blog post about sport drinks, and intrigued about the whole hydrogel concept in opposition to the more traditional drinks, I was offered from Maurten the chance to test their Drink Mix 320 & 160.

Briefly, the hydrogels based drinks have alginate in their composition. Alginate is a soluble polymer derived from seaweed used for cartilage regeneration and wound healing in the medical industry. Although liquid dissolved in water, when entering the stomach, which is an acid environment to facilitate food digestion, it turns into a gel. When the gel leaves the stomach and gets into the intestine, with normal pH, becomes liquid again and releases its “content”.

High levels of carbohydrates in normal drinks are associated with slow gastric emptying and gastrointestinal stress. Hydrogel drinks surpass these issues, as their carbohydrates only get released beyond the stomach, allowing the transport of high quantities (up to 160g/L of carbohydrates in the Maurten 320), with no side effects. To attain similar carbohydrates ingestion with normal sport drinks would be necessary the ingestion of high volumes (more than double) of usual sports drink, with level of carbohydrates going up to 70g/L.

The ingredients listed are maltodextrin and fructose (as carbohydrate’s sources), pectin, sodium alginate and sodium chloride. The nutritional values listed per 100g are:

  • Energy                                400kcal
  • Fat                                      0g
  • Carbohydrates                 99g (of which sugar 41g)
  • Protein                               0g
  • Salt                                     0.63g

The Drink Mix 320 and the Drink Mix 160 formulations are very similar, with the 320 having a slightly higher proportion of carbohydrates as sugar. They differ in the amount of carbohydrates per serving, as both are dissolved in 500mL of water, but the 320 is provided in 80g sachets, and the 160 in 40g ones.

Per serving (500mL):

  • Drink Mix 160: 160kcal / 39g carbohydrates (13 of which sugars)
  • Drink Mix 320: 320kcal / 79g carbohydrates (33 of which sugars)

Only available to buy online the Drink Mix 320 is priced (in Spain) at 3.20€ each one-dose sachet, while the Drink Mix 160 costs 2.15€. There also some package offers (marathon, half marathon, pro cycling) that may save money.


  1. Maurten Drink Mix 320 or 160 for breakfast, 2-3 hours before a marathon start.
  2. Maurten Drink Mix 160 during a long training session.
  3. Maurten Drink Mix 320 & 160 during a marathon race.

Results in our next entry.


Zona de salida/meta Maratón Aguilar de Campoo
Start/finish area

Pros: friendly and familiar atmosphere; quiet course; free registration and generous running bag.

Cons: maybe outdated webpage is affecting number of runners.

A staple in the calendar since I came for the first time two years ago. It is hard to find a free race these days, even more if it is a marathon. Strangely enough runners are always scarce, compared with other races, even when this one is going for its 22nd edition. Aguilar de Campoo may not be a big town, but has good transport connections that makes it easily accessible. Also it offers some interesting places to visit, and various hiking opportunities around.

With a 9 am start, it is only a short walk from my accommodation. Morning has appeared warm, and forecast announces 28°C by noon. Training during the week went easy, after last weekend race: the Douro Vinhateiro half marathon, nice race in an unbeatable setting.

We are about 30 runners, most of them well known faces. After a short brief by Gabriel, we head off for a short first loop, which will be followed by 5 longer laps going from Aguilar to the village of Villallano.

Heading out of Aguilar following a quiet road we travel through the industrial estate with the biscuit factories. Being a Sunday it is empty, although the sweet smell is in the air. Shortly afterwards we find the only two slopes of the course, one crossing over the highway, and the other doing so over the railway. With an out and back course, these slopes will become demanding later on, as we will surpass them 10 times.

A heading group distances itself quickly, with a terrific pace. I try to allocate myself with a suitable group, but with so few runners is not easy. Luckily because of the linear course you are always crossing runners in the opposite direction. Some encouraging words do wonders sometimes. I keep myself well hydrated in both drink stations, alternating between water and isotonic drink. Not feeling the legs as fresh as I wish, I try to maintain a cruising pace.

With temperature on the rise I move a few places up and down, while spaces between runners increase and groups are less. Before entering my last lap, I get overlapped by the first 3 runners, although it doesn´t matter much: it is only one more to go.

I cross the finish line shy of the 4 hours barrier in 3.57.25, and 15 out of 28 finishers. Never mind, as everyone gets a trophy and well deserved biscuits. Time to say some goodbyes, although many will be gathering in the Almagro marathon, in 3 weeks. As for myself, Pamplona is still waiting first, next Saturday.

Puente hacia llegada Maratón Aguilar de Campoo
Zona salida Maratón Aguilar de Campoo

SHOE DOG: A memoir by the creator of Nike (Phil Knight, 2016, 386 pages)

Front page of book Shoe Dog (Phil Knight)

“You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past. You must forget that internal voice screaming, begging, “Not one more step!” And when it´s not possible to forget it, you must negotiate with it”. 

Phil Knight


Pros: from my point of view a sincere autobiography, acknowledging some of his personal misdoings and defects; show that you have to keep trying to achieve what you want.

Cons: stops in 1980; it could go deeper on his relationships with other sport personalities, as they are just mentioned at the end of the book; not so much a sports book as a business book.

The book is an autobiography of Phil Knight, the man who created Nike. It goes from 1962 to 1980, the period going from the conception of his “crazy” business idea, to the time when Nike is already a successful sports company.

The book starts in 1962, with Phil, 24, just graduated from his Business studies in Stanford University. He likes running, and already wrote an essay about Japanese running shoes and how they could take a share in the sport shoes American market. He has plans of traveling the world, and a small detour in Japan would be helpful in pursuing his early business idea. Without money to do it, is able to convince his father in funding his trip and attempt to get into business.

After a short time selling encyclopaedias in Hawaii he finally arrives to Japan, where he gets an interview with Onitsuka representatives, and manages to get unique distribution rights in the Eastern States for their Tiger running shoes. His company will be Blue Ribbon Sports of Portland.

Back home from his trip he starts selling Tiger running shoes while working for an accounting firm. Onitsuka´s shoes are good in quality and priced lower than Adidas, market leader at the time, selling easily. Always short of cash, Phil spends every dollar earnt to buy more running shoes, raising continuous problems with his bank. To make things worse deliveries from Japan are always late.

By 1964 he sends some shoes to his early coach in Oregon University, Bill Bowerman. Very professional and strict, he knows everything about running and training. He likes the shoes so much that becomes partner with Phil, who happily agrees to get him on board (49% for Bowerman, who doesn´t want to take decisions, and 51% for Knight). Shortly afterwards they get distribution rights from Onitsuka for the whole United States.

Unable to attend demand, starts hiring people. Despite the selling success he is always near bankruptcy and unable to work exclusively in Blue Ribbon. By 1968 he meets his future wife and rents a derelict office as heaquarters. By that time also the suggestions from Bowerman make their way into Onitsuka´s newest running shoes.

Already in the 1970s Knight´s relation with Onitsuka erodes, as he finds out that they are looking for a replacement distributor in the United States, as confirmed by a Japanese spy. Thinking that he cannot relay fully on selling other people shoes, finds factories capable of making their own, using all the knowledge from Bowerman innovations. That is the birth of Nike as an independent brand, whose name comes from the Greek goddess of victory.

During the following years Nike endorses its first athletes, among them the great but ill-fated Pre Lafontaine, while Bowerman goes as head coach to the Olympics in Munich, retiring shortly afterwards from coaching deeply affected by the terrorist attacks.

We know about the legal fight between Onitsuka and Nike, and the continuous struggle to pay the factories deliveries and workers.  By this time in the book we are already familiar with some of Phil´s closest employees, working passionately in the company from the early days.

By 1977 they test the first running shoes with injected air in the soles, which would conquer the market. Manufacturing broadens to different countries while they start making sports apparel too. With sales growing unstoppable, in 1980, and after much thought from Knight, Nike goes finally public. Shares offering make him a rich man worth $178 million.

In the last brief chapter Knight jumps 30 years to talk about the loss of his son Matthew, his friendship with some of the best known athletes, Nike´s campaigns to improve working conditions for his employees and some mistakes. At this point you can think that maybe is trying to justify being one of the richest man in the world. Or maybe not, as along the book Knight admitted in many occasions his failures.

A successful entrepreneur, although with errors as employer and father.

“Beating the competition is relatively easy. Beating yourself is a never-ending commitment.” Nike´s ad campaign


(Collage from Gerhard Gellinger)

A few days ago I found two interesting articles about lifespans in athletes, and how the victory can affect lifespan. One of them compared longevity in gold and silver Olympic medallists in track and field disciplines, while the other focused on United States Olympic medallists in all disciplines.

When comparing gold and silver medallist, the first study focused on Olympic medallists from 1896 to 1948, when athletes were amateur, and doping use was scarce. It was found that on average winners died more than one year earlier than their silver contenders. It contradicts previous studies where achievements improved life expectancy, as for example after winning a Nobel Prize (1-2 extra years), or Oscar Award winners against nominees (4 years longer lives). Obviously there are differences, as these achievement are more subjective, and attained much later in life, especially when talking about the Nobel prizes.

It is suggested that maybe the gold medallists were less motivated later in life, affecting their career choices, as their income was significantly lower than the one from silver, or even bronze medallists. Another explanation could be that their victories would make them famous, and get them to a riskier lifestyle. Maybe those early achievements would increase the stress levels, as they would try to succeed in every future activity. Conclusions are limited, as there is no information about athletes’ lifestyles after retirement, or any influence of tobacco and alcohol. It is not clear if winning is a stimulus or a deterrent.

The second article focuses on life expectancies of a broader range of athletes, not only track and field, but using only athletes from the United States between 1904 and 1948. It includes gold, silver and bronze medallists, although the 1896 and 1900 Olympics were excluded because no silver or bronze medals were awarded.

This study assumes that a better prize allows a better socioeconomic status later in life. It also assumes similar health status in all medallists at the time of competition. Regarding happiness levels, winner is happy with his victory, while bronze medallist finds his third place as an achievement when comparing with the fourth classified, that doesn´t get any reward. On the contrary, silver medallist keeps thinking about how close was the victory, valuing the silver medal as a gold medal lost.

From 600 gold medallists, and nearly 400 silver and other 400 bronze medallists it was found that silver medallists lived on average 3 years less than medallists from the other two groups. Between gold and bronze medallists there we no differences in life expectancy. Worth noting that life expectancies of all medallists was higher than in the general population:


  • Population                        67.7
  • Bronze                               74.8
  • Silver                                  70.8
  • Gold                                   73.2

An explanation suggested is that winning silver is seeing with dissatisfaction, leading to an increase of stress hormones. This physiological alteration would extend for long time periods, compromising their health and affect their life expectancy.

As the article point out, individual mental health support should be facilitated when needed.

So remember: if you are not going to win a race, you may well try to finish happy, or alternatively go for the third place.



The effects of competition outcomes on health: Evidence from the lifespans of U.S. Olympic medalists.

Kalwij A.

Econ Hum Biol. 2018.


Dying to win? Olympic Gold medals and longevity.

Leive A.

J Health Econ. 2018.


Sohn Kee-Chung (1936)

“The human body can do so much. Then your heart and spirit must take over”.

S. Kee-Chung.

Helmet offered to Kee-Chung as a gift for his victory. Copy of a Greek helmet from century VI BC

Berlin was selected to host the 1936 Olympic Games over Barcelona, two years before the Nazi party got to power in Germany. Hitler saw them as an ideal opportunity to promote his ideas about racial supremacy and antisemitism. Some countries threatened to boycott the Games, when it was said that Jews athletes wouldn´t be allowed to participate. Nonetheless, concessions made from the German side decided the United States to finally compete, with more countries following suit. These concessions were not fruitful, as Germany was able to avoid his Jewish athletes from competition, and most other countries decided to apart them, trying no to offend the regime.

The 1936 Olympics would be the first figuring the torch relay, with the torch ignited in the temple of Hera in ancient Olympia, tradition that has survived almost exactly until our days. There were also the first Games to have live television coverage, although uniquely in certain locations. Leni Riefenstahl was commissioned to film the Games, with the film “Olympia” as a result.

During the opening ceremony and heading the Greek delegation was none other than Spiridon Louis, to mark the 40th anniversary of his marathon victory in Athens, in 1896. He was escorted to Hitler´s presence to offer him an olive branch from the Sacred Grove of Zeus in Olympia. Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, and already in failing health, couldn´t enjoy the moment.

Sohn was born in Sinuiju, North Korea, in 1912, at a time where the Korean peninsula was under Japanese occupation. In the school it soon became obvious that he was talented for running and sent to Seoul to continue with his training and studies. He started competing in short distances, running his first marathon at 17. He would like the distance, running a total of 12 marathons over the next 5 years, and winning 9 of them. In November 1935 in Tokyo he managed to win the marathon in 2.26.42, a world record which would stay in place until 1947, and 5 minutes faster than the time used by Zabala to win the gold medal in the Olympics of 1932.

As mentioned earlier Korea was under Japanese occupation, so Sohn was only able to go to the Olympics defending the Japanese flag and using an iteration of his own name in Japanese, Son Kitei. It was the same case for the other two members of the Japanese marathon team.

On August 9th there were 59 athletes ready for the race. The Argentinian Zabala, one of the main favourites and defending champion, went strongly from start, abandoning the Olympic Stadium in first place. After 3 miles Sohn was 90 seconds behind Zabala, accompanied by the English Ernest Harper, who knowing of the early impetus of Zabala appeased Sohn to take things easy. As predicted by Harper, Zabala after 19 miles fell exhausted, with Sohn and Harper passing him.

Harper started having problems with blisters on his feet, giving Sohn an unexpected advantage and the lead. At mile 20 he had 25 seconds over Harper, with a group of 3 athletes more than 3 minutes behind. Recovering positions was other of the Korean-Japanese, Nam Sung-yong (under his Japanese name of Nan Shoryu).

Entering into the Olympic Stadium, with over 100 thousand spectators, Sohn won the race in 2.29.19, setting a new Olympic record and winning the first gold medal for Japan in an Olympic Game. It is the only time that a marathon world-record holder wins also the Olympic marathon. Harper was able to defend his second place, and win the silver 2 minutes later, with Nam claiming the third place shortly afterwards, after moving from a 33th place at the 10k marker.

During the medals ceremony both Korean bowed their heads during the Japanese anthem, to show politely their shame of having their nation under Japanese occupancy.

Sohn retired after the Olympics, at 24, becoming coach of the Korean marathon team after the war, and leading the first athletes ever to wear the Korean flag in their kit.

His career as coach was also very successful. He trained Suh Yun-bok, who won the Boston marathon in 1947 breaking his own world record in the process (2.25.39), and the team that got the top three places in the same marathon in 1950.

In the Olympics of 1988 he was honoured carrying the Olympic flame into the stadium in Seoul. This would not be his last honour. Still coaching, during the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, his protégé Hwang Young-jo won the second Korean Olympic gold in marathon.

Sohn Kee-chung, a marathon legend, as athlete and coach.



“The Olympic Marathon”, DE Martin & RWH Gynn. Human Kinetics, 2000.

Sohn Kee-chung and Ernie Harper (1936)