Researcher puts marathon theory into practice

A self-confessed running obsessive from the University of Wolverhampton is hoping to put his own research into practice when he takes on two marathon challenges.

Daniel Robinson is a PhD student at the University’s Institute of Sport in Walsall. He is currently researching how to cope with fatigue in endurance sports, particularly marathon running.

The 37-year-old will be taking part in the Wolverhampton marathon on Sunday 3 September as a training run, aiming to complete it in around 2 hours and 50 minutes.

But his real challenge will be on Sunday 8 October when he hopes to run the Chester marathon in a personal best time of under two hours and 30 minutes.

Daniel, who runs around 110 miles a week, is working alongside renowned sports psychologist Professor Andy Lane on his research, which involves testing experienced marathon runners to provide advice and guidance to help them improve.

He explains: “Towards the end of a race, people start to have negative thoughts such as ‘I can’t keep going’ or ‘it hurts too much’. We are trying to understand what we can do to guide people to manage those thought processes effectively. It is performance based, so we will be looking at experienced marathon runners and testing them in the sports labs at the University, and aiming to provide interventions to enable them to push through the negative thoughts.

“We want the research to have a practical application, so the idea is we will be able to create a bespoke plan for the participants using the information we gather in the labs. The University’s biomechanics labs have great facilities, and our aim is to create a legacy for undergraduate and postgraduate students to continue the testing. And in turn we want people to run the best marathon they can, and even complete that ‘bucket list’ marathon they have their sights set on.”

Daniel’s top tips for marathon running are:

  1. Keep your training consistent and progressive. Don’t rush at it with wild enthusiasm at the beginning, only to end up injured after a couple of weeks.
  2. Prioritise rest and sleep. You are putting a lot of demands on your body so you need to give it time to recover.
  3. Make sure that you are mixing up your training. Run a different course and at different speeds and you will challenge your body and adapt.

Daniel, who lives in Solihull, took up running when he was 30, having previously been a keen cyclist. Finding he was spending around 30 hours a week cycling on top of a full-time job, he decided to switch to long distance running as a transition, but soon became, in his words, ‘a running geek’. This led to him deciding to study a PhD in sports psychology at the University’s Walsall Campus.

He came close to running under two hours and 30 mins at the London marathon this year, and plans to stay fit but reduce his training if he secures his PB.

Daniel adds: “People ask me what I think about when I’m running for two hours – and the answer is ‘running’. I think about whether my shoulders are relaxed, have I got an upright body position, the mechanics of my feet.

“We want to come up with ways to help people re-programme their thoughts about running, to make it a more pleasant experience, while also enabling them to run quicker. Thinking in the right way can make it easier – and you can affect the physiology by affecting the psychology.”

 

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