A marathon in PPE and optimal jumping blades

Run a marathon dressed as a scientist

Credit: Sportograf.com

PPE on the Run: Stephen Cochrane holds the Guinness World Record for „Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Scientist” at the London Marathon in April 2024.

Stephen Cochrane wasn’t far down the London Marathon course when he remembered why lab coats weren’t made for his running. Reusable ones like his are thick and heavy, trapping body heat—especially the heat generated by distance runners like Cochrane. Splashing water on himself to cool down made the coat heavy. Nitrile gloves did him no favors. Sweat pooled in the impenetrable blue elastic, prompting Cochrane, who waved his hands up whenever the liquid oozed out.

But Cochrane had a job to do. The Professor at Queen’s University Belfast And the organic chemist learned about the Guinness World Record for „Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Scientist” from a student about 4 months ago. The previous record holder’s finishing time was much slower than what Cochrane usually ran, including in several world marathon majors, including Berlin, Boston and Chicago. Cochrane immediately set out to beat that record.

On April 21, Cochrane crossed the finish line of the London Marathon in 2 hours 48 minutes 51 seconds wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE): lab coat, nitrile gloves, safety goggles, and full-length pants, carrying a 50-mL graduated cylinder. . Guinness judges were on hand to crown him Accomplished.

„Some people have this idea that professors are boring, dull, that they hide away in their labs or sit in their offices all day,” Cochrane tells Newsletters. „It’s nice to show a more human side.”

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Cochrane is awaiting Guinness certification for the title „Fastest Half Marathon Dressed as a Scientist”. set out to reach At the Portadown Running Festival in Northern Ireland in March. He says he presented „a mountain of evidence” because none of the jurors showed up.

If someone beats his record and the new time is within his running capabilities, Cochrane says he’ll put on the PPE and set off again. But this time, he was wearing a very light lab coat.

Best Jumping Blades for Paralympians

A close-up of the underside of a jumping knife against a dark background.

Credit: ENSTA Paris

Physics in action: Scientists are working with ENSTA Paris to develop jumping blades for Paralympic athletes.

Paralympic runners have similar practical concerns when it comes to gear. Athletes amputated below the knees wear jumping blades made of carbon fiber: very tight, gently curved appendages that act like springs that compress when they hit the ground and return stored energy to the runner on takeoff.

Sportsmen prefer more rigid blades because they save more dynamic energy. But they can cause injuries—especially where the prosthetic leg and joint meet—because the blades send shock waves through sensitive flesh and bone.

A Group of researchers ENSTA Paris is working to solve this problem. Élodie Doyen, Fabien Szmytka and Jean-François Semblat set out to recreate the conditions of the long jump event in the laboratory, designing a machine with a custom mount and cameras to precisely track the movements of the blades. The type of sole on the blade and the angle at which it hits the ground greatly affect the stiffness of the blade and, in turn, the energy it can store, suggesting a path to improve prosthetics (Scientific representative 2023, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-31981-2)

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Fixing the contact between the sole and the blade and the rest of the joint are promising solutions, Smitka says, „because they can be easily adapted to each athlete.”

He, Doyen and Semplot have already started working on new designs with the French Handysport Federation. Science 2024 Try. The updated blades won’t be ready in time for this year’s Paralympic Games because researchers need time to test them: Athletes need at least 1 year to use a particular material before it’s safe to jump, Doyan says. However, beyond the 2028 Los Angeles Games, the research should lay a foundation for future Paralympians.

As Doyan Newspapers puts it: „Real physics is a very complicated thing.”

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