Athletes Derval O'Rourke and Eamonn Coughlan

‘Train slow to run fast’ and the Kiwifruit Secret: Science of Running Symposium

Submitted on Thursday, 21/09/2023

Science of Running Symposium took place in UCD on September 16th 2023

Donnacha O’Driscoll, Site General Manager, Insight UCD

An estimated 180 people turned attended second annual Science of Running Symposium in UCD on Saturday September 16th. The symposium is run by Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics in conjunction with the Jerry Kiernan Foundation. The audience was made up primarily of enthusiasts from running clubs all over the country along with a number of elite athletes, some industry folk and academic colleagues.

Minister of State Jack Chambers TD opened proceedings by highlighting the importance of running and exercise and the benefits that all runners, amateur and professional, can get from the advancement in knowledge of the science of running. Murt Coleman, the chair of the JK Foundation thanked Insight for running such a great event and thanked participants for supporting the foundation, which in turn supports young Irish athletes.

We were then treated to some excellent talks on some leading-edge research on running in terms of training techniques, injury prevention, performance enhancement and dietary monitoring.

Prof Barry Smyth (Insight UCD) presented an analysis of over 7m individual training sessions by athletes of all levels to identify trends in training that improve performance outcome – ‘train slow to run fast’ was the take-home message.

Dr Colin Griffin (Sports Surgery Clinic) explained what exactly the Achilles Tendon is, what it does and how to protect it when maintaining an intensive running schedule.

Prof Kieran Moran (Insight DCU), gave details of a clinical trial that is about to be launched. Participants will, through the use of a specially designed app and monitor, record various metrics before, during and after training sessions. This groundbreaking study will attempt to design a running recommender system that is bespoke to the individual rather than programmes designed for generalised group categories.

Dr Calibhe O’ Doherty (Insight UCD) gave a fascinating talk on how walking and running evolved in the human species and how unique the mechanisms of upright walking and running is in the animal world. Then extrapolating from the natural design of the body he considered the latest technologies in shoe design to enhance our natural running ability.

The final presentation, from Prof. Kate Pumpa, was a one-stop-shop of your basic dietary needs, not just for running but for a general healthy life. The talk was full of intriguing tips on how to eat better for a better life. Did you know that eating two Kiwi fruits 90 min before going to bed can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and the amount of times you wake in the night!

There was a number of chat and network sessions giving attendees the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the researchers and guest elite athletes.

Reece Ademola; a young athlete representing Ireland in the long jump and hoping to be Ireland’s first representative in the discipline at the next Olympics; briefly spoke of the support he has received from the JK foundation and how it has helped him to compete on the world stage.

The final session was a unique opportunity to listen and chat to some of Ireland’s most successful athletes both past and present. The Irish Times sports journalist and former runner, Ian O’ Riordan, chaired a fascinating chat with John Tracey, Eamonn Coughlan, David Gillick, Derval O’Rourke and Donna Evans. The conversation covered multiple aspects of running including motivation, injury avoidance, training habits and staying fit. Along the way they talked about the joy of winning Olympic and world medals and the heartbreak of finishing fourth. This wasn’t just an opportunity to learn but to hear about some of the most famous Irish historical moments from the people that made them happen.

After a Q&A session with the audience that had to be cut short, or we would have been there all night, there were only two questions that people wanted to ask: where can we get the information presented today and what is the date of next year’s event. In response: video summaries and slides will soon be available on-line and although the date is not yet set, there will be another symposium in 2024.