MBRU Publishes Pioneering Scientific Study of Dubai Resident Who Set Guinness World Record After Crossing Six Emirates in Six Days on Foot
Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), in collaboration with Mediclinic Middle East, has released a pioneering new study assessing the responses – both physical and physiological – of the human body while successfully attempting to break a Guinness Book of Records distance challenge in the UAE.
Sean Burgess, an amateur athlete from the UK who lives in Dubai, covered 619km in six days, 21 hours, and 47 seconds, traveling on foot from Al Ghuwaifat on the UAE’s western border to an east coast beach in Fujairah. Scientists at MBRU and Mediclinic monitored the 34-year-old’s training for two months beforehand, conducted extensive tests, and constantly analyzed him during and after the challenge.
“From a technological perspective, it was interesting to analyze how much data we could collect through different wearables and how we could use it for better understanding the participant’s responses and needs,” said Dr. Thomas Boillat, Assistant Professor of Healthcare Innovation and Technologies, MBRU.
“The physical pain, in general, is to be expected, but the impact of mental strain was quite informative because unless you have completed an endurance event of the same magnitude, it is difficult to grasp exactly the role that the mind plays. Another factor was, for example, the lack of sleep, and how it affects performance?” He added.
After a few hours only, Burgess started to suffer from gastrointestinal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, which might have been caused by an excess of speed on one hand, and sugar on the other. He slept very little and maybe got only two-and-a-half hours of quality sleep during the first three days of the challenge, thus starving his body of the time and energy required to recharge, recover, and repair.
“This case study encourages amateur athletes attempting similar ultra-endurance events to follow a pre-planned hydration and nutrition strategy to maximize performance and minimize the risk of injury,” said Professor Stefan Du Plessis, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies and Professor of Physiology at the College of Medicine, MBRU
“It is vital to consult a sports medicine physician in the pre-planning stage, complement endurance training with sport-specific strength and conditioning, and importantly develop psychological skills that will assist in coping with physical pain, discomfort, sleep deprivation, and injury,” added Dr. Alan Kourie, Head of Sports Medicine at Mediclinic Middle East.
Training for the attempt started 9-12 months prior to the event, running 5-6 hours per week (40-50 km per week). Six to nine months prior to the event, he gradually increased his running volume to 10 hours per week (80-100 km per week). During the final six months preceding the event, the athlete maintained a running schedule of 15 hours per week (125-150 km). The results were published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine and were based on blood tests taken before and after the event, data recorded by a smartwatch worn during the challenge, and pre- and post-event interviews.
“The post-challenge analysis also found that the pain does not end at the finish line. Aside from shin splints that made walking difficult for the first week after the event, he also struggled with quality sleep, managing only one or two hours per night for the first month. He would wake up with nightmares about having many miles still to complete. That only started to fade after five weeks,” commented Dr. Tom Loney, Associate Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, MBRU. The study results are available here.