Danika and Mike Bannasch on their farm with their dogs

Photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

Going the Distance

by | Jul 1, 2019 | Health, Office Hours, Spring/Summer 2019

For Martin Hoffman, a run in the mountains can really cover some terrain.

The UC Davis physician and professor has been running ultramarathons — defined as anything longer than the traditional 26.2-mile marathon — for four decades. He ran his first in 1984.

“The reality is that it’s a little hard to explain if you don’t do it,” said Hoffman. “For a lot of people, it’s about establishing a challenge and feeling good about yourself if you succeed at that challenge.”

Hoffman is one of only about 200 people globally who have completed ultramarathons of at least 50 miles for more than 30 years. He has run races up to 100 miles, but said the 50-kilometer (31 miles) is a favorite. “I found that to be a distance I could run pretty hard, and it didn’t consume the entire day.”

Splitting his time between the UC Davis Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Sacramento Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Hoffman uses his expertise to research extreme exercise. A 20-year study he leads follows the health status of people who have run ultramarathons. “For now, I can say it doesn’t seem like there’s anything especially risky in terms of long-term health from this sort of activity.”

And that’s good because, though he’s taken a break from serious competition, he is still a daily runner and covers long distances in the mountains just for fun.