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Research on runners in major race

26 January 2016

half marathon

University study looks at why people run

Cardiff University is carrying out research with novice competitors in a major international half marathon to discover what motivates people to run.

The Cardiff University-sponsored IAAF World Half Marathon Championships takes place in Cardiff on Saturday, 26 March.

The research team, from the School of Healthcare Sciences, hopes its findings from the event will help organisers of mass races to attract a wider range of entries in future thus improving the nation’s health.

Dr Liba Sheeran, who is leading the study, said: “Low levels of physical activity are a major risk factor for ill health and death from various causes.

“Even though everybody knows that exercise is good for you, the challenge is how to become motivated to be physically active and exercise regularly.

“Although there is evidence of growing popularity of entering mass races, it is not known whether people continue to exercise regularly after completion of the race or indeed what motivates or stops them running.”

Those taking part in the study are among 500 first-time runners recruited by event organiser Run4Wales, with the support of the University, who were given free places through the IAAF’s Athletics for a Better World (ABW) social responsibility programme.

The study participants will be offered two different injury prevention programmes in the build up to the race: Online videos featuring tips for training, common injuries and when to seek help; and face-to-face workshops including practical advice on managing common pains and aches, exercises for running, and warm-up and warm-down strategies.

The workshops will be run by Cardiff University Inspire Performance Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy Team, led by Professor Nicola Phillips. Rhys Shorney and Tim Sharp will deliver the workshops with undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students.

The research is aligned to the University’s Transforming Communities programme, which works with communities in Cardiff, Wales and beyond in areas including health, education and wellbeing.

The study is also closely aligned to the School of Healthcare Sciences Research Theme Optimising Health through Activity and Lifestyles that aims to enable and promote healthy and active lifestyles in people with acute and chronic illness and injury.

The runners will be invited to complete online surveys developed by Cardiff University researchers Dr Valerie Sparkes and Matt Townsend five days before and six months after the race to find out, for example, their motivation for entering the race and whether they are still running following the event. 

More than 200 of the world’s best athletes from 50 countries will descend on Cardiff to battle it out for the prestigious World Half Marathon Championships title. Mo Farah is expected to be among them.

They will be joined by up to 20,000 mass race runners who will get the opportunity to ‘Run in the Footsteps of Champions’ by completing the same 13.1-mile route around Cardiff at the same time as the world’s best.

Meanwhile Run4Wales, in conjunction with the University and ABW, is organising a mass training run for all 500 community runners with the help of former double world 110m hurdles champion Colin Jackson on 30 January. The runners will meet at the University’s Talybont Sports Training Village before heading along the Taff Trail.