Plasma beta-endorphin (beta-EP) and beta-lipotropin (beta-LPH) levels were measured in 15 healthy trained marathon runners. These hormones were evaluated in two different conditions: 1-before (1h) and after a marathon race (n = 10); 2-before, during and after a prolonged (90 min) submaximal exercise (bicycle ergometer at 50% VO2 max) (n = 5). In these latter group plasma beta-EP and beta-LPH levels were measured every 15 min for 165 min. In all the athletes, both plasma beta-EP and beta-LPH levels were significantly higher after the end of the marathon race than in basal conditions (p less than 0.01). The prolonged exercise with bicycle ergometer significantly stimulated plasma beta-EP and beta-LPH levels. Starting 60 min after the beginning of the exercise, plasma beta-EP and beta-LPH levels resulted significantly higher than basal values until the end of the exercise (p less than 0.01 at 60, 75 and 90 min). These data confirming that marathon running is a potent stress stimulus, showed that the duration and related factors but not the work load may be considered critical in stimulating beta-EP and beta-LPH release during physical exercise.