As you know, I love me some running. And as you also know, I love me some science. So I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I’ve joined a running study.

Specifically, this study is comparing males and females going through a training program for a 10 km race with respect to injuries1. Basically, there is a 12 week training plan that we follow, including a mandatory2 group run on Sunday mornings and 3 other runs per week that we do on our own3,4. And then we answer a bunch of questionnaires about our running and any pain we experience. And then at the end we run in a 10 km race that they invented for this study. I’ve always wanted to join a running group and never found one that quite worked for me5, so this way I get to be part of a running group *and* contribute to science. Plus, I have a tendency to be very unmotivated to run after I do a half marathon – I usually think, “Oh, I just need a little rest time to recovery” and then the habit is broken and 6 months go by and I haven’t gone out for a run. As you know, I’m running the Fall Classic half marathon next weekend, so being in this study will be just the motivation I need to get running in the days and weeks after the race.

The training officially starts tomorrow, but I got my first taste of the study two Sundays ago when I went out to the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre at UBC for my baseline measurements. This included measurements of my legs and feet and tests for balance, flexibility, and strength.

In the balance test, you had to first balance on a metal plate that measured the fluctuations as you balanced on one foot. And then you had do the same thing, but first you had to jump over a barrier and land on one foot and they measured the fluctuations as you tried to re-gain your balance. Have you ever tried jumping on one foot, over a barrier, landing and actually being balanced? It’s as hard as it sounds!

The picture doesn’t really give you a good sense of it, but that yellow barrier is a good 6 inches high. You had to stand on the wooden part, jump over the yellow thing and land on the metal plate:


Here are my test results, though since I’m not a physiotherapist, I have no idea what they mean:


The other thing they did at the baseline assessment was a 3D scan of your foot. This study is sponsored by Nike6 and apparently this 3D scanning technology was “shipped all the way from Nike headquarters”!

To do the 3D scan, they put little stickers on different parts of your foot and then you stood with your foot in a box that shot lasers7 at you:

Day 112

And it looked like this:

But then we had to re-do that one because the computer said no. But in the end we got lovely 3D scans of my feet:

I’m not sure exactly what they are doing with all these measurements, as they specifically told us that they are only taking these measurements at baseline, but not later. The rest of the study is just questionnaires (including the pain scale I mentioned8 ). I presume they are comparing the males to the females at baseline to see where we are all starting from, but I guess they aren’t interested in balance, flexibility, strength or the shape of our 3D feet as outcome measures.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to having a structured training program to follow and meeting some new running friends.

Let the running begin!

  1. At least, that’s what they told us. But I get the impression that what they consider an “injury” is somewhat different from what I would call an “injury” – as the baseline assessment involved rating your level of pain on a pain scale, but I don’t think of just run-of-the-mill pain as an “injury” per se. I’d consider it more just being the result of using my body and/or aging. []
  2. Well, it was called “mandatory” when we signed up for the study, but has since been downgraded to “strongly recommended”, probably at least in part because it spans the holiday season and some of the participants will be traveling over the holidays and thus won’t be able to attend the Sunday runs during that time. []
  3. Tuesday nights are track training and there’s an option to do this run out at UBC, but frankly given my 2 nights a week where I have to drive to Point Grey for classes, the last thing I want to do is drive out there when I don’t have to []
  4. Given that we are in the part of the year where the sun sets so damn early (i.e., it’s pitch black out by the time I get home from work at 5pm), I think I’m going to have to get over my distaste for treadmills and do my running during the week on the treadmill at the gym at work. I figure if I go into work a bit early, do my run and then shower and get ready at the gym. I remember when I did a similar thing for my 26 hot yoga sessions in 30 days and I found that as long as I was organized enough with my bag packed and ready to go, I actually really like the schedule. I feel super energized and much more productive during the day when I exercise first thing in the morning. []
  5. They always seem to be on Wednesdays and I have Wednesday night hockey games. []
  6. Participants are apparently getting a free Nike Tshirt and the volunteers helping out with the study all got Nike shoes. Which, for the female, were, of course, pink. []
  7. I think. I asked the volunteers doing the scan “How does this work?” and they were all “lasers… I think. []
  8. I mentioned it in the footnote. You are reading the footnotes, right? []

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