News & blog

Saturday 5th October 2019: parkrun Health and Wellbing survey released


After a summer of analysis, our Health and Wellbeing survey of parkrun has been released into the wild by parkrun.  With most of the hard work done by Drs Alice Bullas and Helen Quirk from Sheffield Hallam University, we analysed over 100,000 surveys from the UK and Ireland, resulting in 60,694 and 4,384 completed surveys for each country.  With 47 questions, this created 11 million answers for the UK and just under 1 million answers for Ireland.   Just checking the data (over and over and over again) took a lot of hours!

What did we find?  There were some obvious things:

  • people were motivated to take up parkrun to improve their fitness, their physical health and to feel a sense of achievement
  • 91% improved this sense of achievement,
  • 89% felt they’d improved their fitness while 85% reported that they’d improved their physical health
  • 79% of parkrunners felt they’d improved their happiness from running or walking.

Surprisingly (or maybe not?), 69% felt that their mental health had improved, despite this being way down the list of reasons why they took up parkrun in the first place.

We’ll be posting the full report and writing up papers – probably over the next decade!  I’ve leave you with some word art created from the 14,296 comments left by people at the end of the survey.  People really care about parkrun.

parkrun comments 14298


Thursday 28th May: Book review of Advantage Play

Matin Durrani from Physics World reviewed my book – this is the first review I’ve had so I was a little nervous what it might say.  It was balanced, commented that I had too much to say (something people do say about me!) but did summarise in the tweet caption as follows:

“Advantage Play will appeal to sports-mad physicists, who relish seeing how physics underpins much of sport, says Matin Durrani.”

What more could I have asked for? Phew!

Thanks Matin!

Thursday 9th May: Interview with Sarah Storey and Chris Boardman

I was lucky enough to interview Dame Sarah Storey and Chris Boardman MBE at the Sheffield City Region’s Transport Conference, instigated by SCR Mayor Dan Jarvis.  I had 40 minutes to ask my own questions about Olympic medals, their careers and active travel and then field some from the audience.

Sarah Chris Steve
Sarah Storey and Chris Boardman discussing active travel.  I’m trying to ignore the cogs looming over me.

My favourite comments:

To Sarah: what do you think of e-bikes?

Sarah: I really don’t think they are allowed at the Olympics

To Chris: are there any career highlights that perhaps you don’t really get to talk about?

Chris: I knew I’d made it when I when to my local chippy and they gave me my chips for free.

They were both really impressive on their thoughts about active travel and their roles in promoting not just cycling but walking: it’s going to be great working with Sarah.

Dan Jarvis’s message? “We need to create a world where the only travel option is not the car.”

Thursday 11th April: Edinburgh Science Festival

Had an exciting day out at the Edinburgh Science Festival presenting Advantage Play.  I seemed to have got the graveyard shift which in Festival terms means 5.30 pm when the day’s festival goers have gone for dinner while the evening lot are yet to appear.  Ah well, I had a great time interviewing Olympic swimmer Jack Thorpe on stage and we were interviewed earlier in the day on the BBC Radio Scotland show with John Beattie (excellent rugby player in his own right) – see image below.

Things I learnt: don’t present at dinner time; do interview elite athletes on stage, it’s fun; it is possible to do sports science experiments on stage; beards are bad for swimming performance!



Monday 1st April 2019: New Active Travel Commissioner announced!

Sarah Storey 2
Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis, the new Active Travel Commissioner Dame Sarah Storey – and me.

Dame Sarah Storey was announced today as the new Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region.  I gave the opening address which you can find a synopsis of here. The key principles:

  • we should focus on short journeys;
  • we should encourage people to cycle and walk these distances;
  • the world will be a better place if we do.

Simple to say hard to do!


Monday 25th March 2019: Pint of Science!

pint of science

Down my local to record the first episode of The Pint of Science Podcast – the barmen are actually the presenters Jim and Callam.  We talked about the history of sport and technology and the big question: Is it cheating?

Make sure that you sign up!


Saturday 16th March 2019: Science Week

Science Week 2019

Kids really are great aren’t they? Show them a bike, talk about the science, give them a silly hat to wear and they’re away (a bit like triathletes or academics). A 10 yr old asked me a really sophisticated question about aero-helmet design (“why do some teams chop the points off the back of the helmet?”). It was nice to see as many girls as boys there although I’m not sure of the sex of the toddler who kept on wandering on stage to steal my footballs.

Tuesday 5th March 2019: Parliament (not talking about Brexit for a change!)

IMG_1694 (1)

Honoured to be invited to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing and the 2019 Spending Review.  This is me taking a sneaky selfie at the end with the key protagonists in the background: (from left to right, Lord Gus O’Donnell, Lord Richard Layard, Chris Ruane M.P. and Nancy Hey from What Works Wellbeing).  I learnt a lot: that GDP goes up regardless what the money is spent on (drugs, reconstruction from an earthquake) and doesn’t reflect the quality of the spending (drugs, earthquakes).  Gus O’Donnell suggested that some would like to replace GDP with measures of Wellbeing.  Now wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?


Wednesday 13th February 2019: Medilink Healthcare Business Awards


Had a great time at the Medilink North of England awards dinner last night. I couldn’t resist putting on an aero helmet during my after dinner speech (captions please…) but the topic of the talk was ‘Faster, higher, healthier’. My closing message? Doing 2 x 10 minutes per day of exercise enough to raise your heart rate can reduce your relative risk of death by about 10%. So just do it!

After dinner speech circuit here I come…


Thursday 17th January 2019: Talk Sport

Had a lot of fun on Talk Sport with the excellent Natalie Sawyer to talk about my book and the technology of sport.  Also on was Bradley Wiggins and Darren Lewis from the Mirror newspaper.  We touched on everything from the ancient Greeks to goal line technology and VAR (Video Assistant Refereeing).

You can listen again for a limited time: Part 1 and Part 2

Darren Lewis from the Mirror, Bradley Wiggins, me and Natalie Sawyer after our Talk Sport session on sport and technology.


Thursday 6th December: “A healthier, happier planet” Sheffield Telegraph

David Bocking, a photo-journalist from Sheffield, wrote a really nice article on me for the Sheffield Telegraph.  I was out of Sheffield at the time it came out and got a lot of stick from people about the number of pictures of me in one article (seven).  An edited online version is here, with the paper-original shown below.

Sheffield Telegraph 6th December 2018
(c) David Bocking


Tuesday 13th November:  100 Faces of a Vibrant Economy 2018

Well, who’d have thought it,  I’m Face.  Of a vibrant economy that is.  Grant Thornton celebrates leadership, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit through its 100 Faces of a Vibrant Economy awards.  And I’m happy to say that I’m chosen as one of them.

Thank you Grant Thornton!

Here’s my face.

Straight to camera
Photo: JLR Agency


Friday 2nd November: The Equalizer documentary now on Amazon Prime

61lal5ovj4l-_pi_pjprime-sash-extra-large-2017topleft00_ac_us218_Delighted to find that my documentary The Equalizer made by Kensington TV is now on Amazon Prime.  It takes 5 modern day Olympians to see whether they can compete with their peers from the past using old technology.  The main question is this: which makes the biggest difference, the athlete or the technology?


Thursday 4th October: My book is out!!

My book Advantage Play: Technologies that changed sporting history was officially published today.  It’s like having a baby (the easy male part of it, that is): you prepare for the big day without realising that there’s a whole load of work afterwards too – feeding it, helping it grow, showing it off to people and generally getting on everyone’s nerves because you can’t stop talking about it.  I wonder what my book will grow up to be?


The bookshop seems to be in alphabetical order: Fry, Haake, Hawking.  Is that a Miodownik down at the left?


Tuesday 25th September

Nice interview by Alan Martin for Gizmodo magazine on technology and sport. Alan very kindly made me sound very eloquent!


Friday 21st September 2018

IMG_1092On stage at New Scientist Live with Clare Balding, Jamie Hindhaugh (BT Sport), Lawrence deLaglio and Hannah Cockroft for an hour’s panel session on the topic of “Technology in sport: is it always a good thing”.  Great to work with such a professional as Clare – she was the first person I signed my book for.  Sold my first 20 copies too!


18th September 2018

fullsizeoutput_3f60Very excited to receive advance copies of my book.  I’m soooo excited, it feels like Christmas.


1st September 2018

I’m delighted to be on a panel at New Scientist Live on 21st September hosted by Clare Balding.  The topic is “Technology in sport: is it always a good thing?”.  It’ll be  fun to talk about this with Hannah Cockroft, Jamie Hindhaugh and Lawrence Dallaglio.

NSL image1

NSL image 2


10th July 2018

British Paralympic SocietyI had a lot of fun sitting on a panel at the British Paralympic Association in London.  We talked about the use of technology in sport and in particular for paralympic athletes.  Excited to talk with Stephanie Reid, 2017  T44 Long Jump World Champion and uber-dude.