Best performance came in March 1987, when Kouros again won the 1,060 km Sydney-to-Melboume race in 134:47, equivalent to 1,127 km (700 miles) in 6 days, the distance for which Rowell had first aimed 105 years earlier.
An important factor that helps to explain Kouros’s remarkable success is that for an ultramarathon runner he has, like Fordyce and Ritchie, a relatively fast best marathon time (2:24:01). He also has a quite remarkable ability to go without sleep for prolonged periods of time. In the Colac race, in which he set the current 6-day world record, he was off the track for only 4 hours during the entire 144 hours of the race. Like the famous pedestrians, he has taught himself to race walk at 6.4 km/hr for prolonged periods, and his approach in these races, like Rowell’s, is to run hard from the start and then to walk a great deal. Of his training we know little except that he runs 20 to 25 km per day. He is also a vegetarian and enjoys races of 100 to 300 km the most.
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Physiological information on Kouros has recently been published (Rontoy-annis et al, 1989). At the time of testing, Kouros was 1.71 m tall, weighed 64 kg with 8% body fat and had a V02max of 63 ml/kg/min. Data for his energy balance during the 1985 960-km Sydney-Melboume race, which he won by more than 24 hours finishing in 125:07, were also provided.
During the 5 days of that race, Kouros averaged 11.7, 8.3, 8.1, 8.9, and 6.2 km/hr which corresponded to 57, 41, 40, 44, and 30% of his V02max; he slept for a total of 4 hours 40 minutes and rested for an additional 9 hours 40 minutes. His daily energy expenditure ranged from 15,367 Kcal on the first day to 7,736 Kcal on the fifth day, and his daily energy intake varied from 13,770 Kcal on the first day to 7,800 Kcal on the fifth day. Overall, his total estimated energy intake (55,970 Kcal) exceeded his energy expenditure (55,079 Kcal).
To maintain this high rate of energy consumption, Kouros ate every 15 minutes; his intake included Greek sweets, dried fruits and nuts, biscuits soaked in honey or jam, and fresh fruit such as pears, melon, watermelon, grapes, apples, bananas, plums, pineapples, dates, and raisins. His only meat intake was a small amount of roast chicken on the morning of the fourth day. Carbohydrates provided 96% of his total energy intake.
Kouros drank small amounts of either water, fruit juice, or Gatorade every 10 to 15 minutes. His daily fluid intake varied from 22 litres on the first day to 14.3 liters on the fourth day and averaged 800 ml per hour that he ran. He finished the race 1 lb lighter than he started.
His only medical complaints were severe constipation and frequency of urination, the latter possibly due to what may have been an excessively high fluid intake for his rate of energy expenditure (see post 4). Bladder trauma resulting from the continuous running (see post 18) may also have contributed.
Clearly, two factors contribute most significantly to Kouros’s success. First, he has a remarkable ability to go without sleep for prolonged periods. Second, he has a capacity to maintain a high rate of energy consumption during these races. This parallels findings in cyclists competing in the formidable Tour de France. Only those cyclists whose rates of daily energy consumption equal their rates of energy utilization are able to finish the race (Brouns et al, 1989a, 1989b; Saris et al, 1989). Interestingly, the daily rates of energy expenditure of cyclists in the Tour de France (24,000 kJ; 5,700 Kcal) are considerably lower than the 7,736 to 15,367 Kcal achieved by Kouros during his ultradistance races.