Red Bull 400 shows upside of physical exhaustion

Why an uphill sprint like Red Bull 400 challenges everyone, no matter who they are.
By Katrin Strobl

The human body can be a paradoxical creation. There's a full range of physiological limitations, such as the maximum heart rate or the maximum oxygen uptake that we can't surpass. But on the other hand, we achieve our greatest athletic performances at exactly these limits. When we put different body types – from the under-trained to the body-builder type, from sporty to regular fit to pro mountain runners like Turkey’s Ahmet Arslan – to the test, it’s an individual experience for your body and mind.

Ahmet Arslan and participants of Red Bull 400 Almaty
Ahmet Arslan and participants © Victor Magdeyev/Red Bull Content Pool

When the five protagonists from various backgrounds start to run, a variety of systems begin their work and pump, carry or collect their respective material and signals around – from periphery to centre, or simply from A to B.

This process of adaptation sometimes expresses itself through physical sensation. Temporary shortness of breath at the beginning of an exercise or a strong pulse in the carotid artery because of sudden changes in our heart rates – sensations that are isolated and sometimes uncomfortable, but bearable.

If these feelings are intensified, then they continue to merge together into the characteristics of exhaustion. Each system – such as respiration, blood circulation or energy delivery – seems to be different in speed from one another. Once they synch and, for example the rate of blood flow is in balance with nutrition distribution, exercise starts to become fun and the symptoms of exhaustion seem to vanish, at least temporarily.

Participants during preperation for Red Bull 400
Participants during preperation for Red Bull 400 © Victor Magdeyev/Red Bull Content Pool

But these processes need time. A time span that differs from one individual to another, sure, but in most cases still longer than a 400m uphill sprint takes.

When Red Bull 400 athletes enter their high-performance mode and begin their insane challenge of 140m of altitude within 400m, literally everything in their bodies goes into overdrive. All starters are well aware of the willpower and endurance they're going to need in the next few minutes and so do their organisms. Respiratory system and blood circulation answer with a dramatic increase of their output. With an average maximum of 181bpm, hearts beat at three times their normal rate roughly 50m after the start signal and pump up to 40l of blood through the veins per minute, almost eight times the normal amount.

Participant during lactose test
Participant during lactose test © Victor Magdeyev/Red Bull Content Pool

The mindset is triggered through motivation, excitement and competition and adrenaline floods the bodies. With every degree of incline – each one of the 14 Red Bull 400 venues features an average of 37º (75 percent) – the multiple fights within an athlete intensify, no balance in sight, only more and more exertion to meet the endless demand for oxygen and energy-carrying molecules.

“Because it’s so steep you can only run 100m, after that you have to climb. It’s only 400m, but the effort is too much. After the race all your muscles are tight, your breath is fast and the lactic acid is super-high,” explains Arslan, the winner of 12 Red Bull 400 events to date.

Participants after the preperation race for Red Bull 400 Almaty
Participants after the preperation race © Victor Magdeyev/Red Bull Content Pool

In this extreme state of constant scarcity, athletes surely learn about human limitations, but more importantly they learn about what's possible. One can't get more life in fewer seconds. For everyone looking for this sensation, the Red Bull 400 race calendar definitely is the place to find the opportunity.

Ahmet Arslan
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