Rectal temperature was measured in 62 male runners who competed in the 1983 Dundee marathon race: all measurements were made immediately after the race. Competitors' times were noted at 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles (8.0, 16.1, 24.1, 32.2 km) and at the finish (26.2 miles, 42.2 km). Mean finishing time of the group was 3 hr 33 min +/- 48 min (mean +/- S.D.; range = 2 hr 17 min-5 hr 11 min). Mean running speed of the group decreased progressively as the distance covered increased. Mean post-race rectal temperature was 38.7 +/- 0.9 degrees C (range 35.6-40.3 degrees C). The post-race temperature was correlated (p less than 0.01) with the time taken to cover the last 6.2 miles (10 km) of the race, but not with the overall finishing time (p greater than 0.05). Only the fastest runners were able to maintain an approximately constant pace throughout the race, whereas the slower runners slowed down progressively. The runners with the highest post-race temperature, although not necessarily the fastest runners, also tended to maintain a steady pace throughout. The runners with the lowest post-race temperature slowed down markedly only over the last 6.2 mile section of the race. The results clearly indicate that runners forced by fatigue or injury to slow down in the latter stages of races held at low ambient temperatures may already be hypothermic or at serious risk of hypothermia.
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