Measuring the relationship between diet and physical endurance was more fun than it sounds for a group of students at Edge Hill University.

Claire Blennerhassett, Lecturer in Applied Health and Social Care at Edge Hill University, has provided an opportunity for undergraduate and postgraduate students to engage in academic research.

In the final stage of her PhD with the Department of Sport and Physical Activity, Claire’s research involved an ultra-endurance race around the campus to assess the effectiveness of two dietary approaches: a gut training diet, designed to improve participants’ tolerance to ingesting food and fluid, and a race preparation diet, designed to maximise energy stores immediately before the race.

The race comprised 18 runners, and as data needed to be collected before, during and after the race, it was the perfect opportunity for students across two departments to get involved.

In preparation for the event, Nutrition and Sports students were provided with essential food hygiene and data collection training to ensure the research protocols were followed precisely.

Nutrition students took control of the food preparation for the aid stations and recorded the nutritional intake of all runners throughout the event. This allowed them to implement food safety knowledge and skills and gain experience of data collection in a challenging research environment.

Sports students, along with a PhD student at Liverpool John Moores University, supported the collection and analysis of bodily fluids along with race timing and pacing data. With the majority of research completed in a laboratory environment, this project provided a new and exciting research experience to all involved.

“Students went beyond what was required for the research to provide an exceptional race experience, with a group of Nutrition students completing the final 3.5-mile lap with the final runner,” said Claire.

“As a relatively new member of the Faculty of Health and Social Care, I have been overwhelmed by the support of Edge Hill Staff and students.  It truly is an inspirational place to work and study.”

Claire also received excellent feedback from the students who were involved in the project.

“I just wanted to thank you for letting me get involved in your ultra-endurance research yesterday,” said one student. “It’s really motivated me to work towards completing a Masters degree in Sport Nutrition and it’s even made me consider increasing my own running goals. If there is ever a similar event on campus I would love to get involved again.