Online, accessible performance and heart rate data from running competitions are posted publicly or semi-publicly to social media. We tested the efficacy of one such data resource- Strava- as a tool in exercise physiology investigations by exploring heart rate differences in mountain racing and road racing running events. Heart rate and GPS pace data were gathered from Strava activities posted by 111 males aged 21-49, from two mountain races (Mt. Washington Road Race and Pike's Peak Ascent) and two road race distances (half marathon and marathon). Variables of interest included race finish time, average heart rate, time to complete the first half (by distance) of the race, time to complete the second half, average heart rate for both the first and second half, estimated maximal heart rate, and competitiveness (finish time as percentage of winning time). Mountain runners on average showed no change in heart rate in the second versus first half of the event, while road racers at the half marathon and marathon distances showed increased second-half heart rate. Mountain runners slowed considerably more in the second half than road runners. Heart rate increases in road races were likely reflective of cardiac drift. Altitude and other demands specific to mountain racing may explain why this was not observed in mountain races. Strava presents enormous untapped opportunity for exercise physiology research, enabling initial inquiry into physiological questions that may then be followed by targeted laboratory studies.
Using a novel data resource to explore heart rate during mountain and road running