Most of us can only watch and marvel as every April thousands of ordinary people with little or no running experience push themselves to the limits of human endeavour for charity and the glory of saying “I did the London Marathon”.
The training is hard and not for the faint-hearted. But what happens when the medal has been won and the aching limbs have eased?
Surprisingly little research has been done until now. Sports scientists have teamed up with Cancer Research UK to discover if charity runners taking part in Sunday’s gruelling event are more likely to be motivated to exercise for life or permanently hang up their trainers after the Marathon.
For the last month, as part of a unique experiment devised by researchers at Liverpool’s John Moore University, Cancer Research UK ‘fun’ runners have been keeping record of their training programs, sleep patterns, incidence of injury and levels of fitness and motivation.
Dr Ben Edwards, lead investigator says: “We chose Cancer Research UK because of the compelling nature of the cause. We will be looking at levels of success between the various ages and sexes of those taking part. For example do men or women take the training most seriously? Who paces themselves best on the day? And who is likely to be motivated enough to keep up all that good work after Sunday?”
Dr Edwards, 28, who has himself been successfully treated for testicular cancer, is running in Sunday’s marathon so he can monitor the progress of Cancer Research UK volunteers first hand.
Afterwards, runners will be keeping a diary to see how many slip into their old ways or are motivated to stay fit. The results will be published in the autumn.
Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK, says: “This year with more than 1,200 people taking part for us, we believe we have the biggest contingent of charity runners in the 2002 Marathon. Their well being and care is our greatest concern. This research will help us provide even better support next year.”