10 April 2024

What does Stromlo Running Festival's partnership with University of Canberra mean for you?

| Dione David
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People running

University of Canberra is now Stromlo Running Festival’s ‘Education Partner’ – but what does that mean? Photo: Liam Budge.

It is hoped that an alliance between an iconic Canberra sporting event and a local university will improve outcomes for trail runners and forge a valuable connection between the broader community and the higher education sector.

Stromlo Running Festival (SRF) has announced the University of Canberra (UC) as the event’s official ‘Education Partner’, ostensibly granting UC access to a vibrant, engaged and growing cohort in the community while gaining access to valuable University resources.

The partnership will see UC students and staff from various disciplines, including physiotherapy, marketing, events, technology and health science, undertaking internships, volunteering opportunities and research projects.

SRF director Mel Bingley said a collaboration between a major sporting event and a tertiary education was not only mutually beneficial but also had enormous potential to do more widespread good.

“UC is very much about being ‘Canberra’s University’ and it’s important to have that civic visibility. Our event is all about bringing the community together. This collaboration represents a powerful synergy between education and community engagement, and we look forward to partnering with the expertise and resources of UC to enhance the SRF experience for our participants,” she said.

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University students and staff, as well as faculty in health and fitness, event management, tourism and marketing, will gain valuable experience behind the scenes of Canberra’s biggest trail run, which attracts over 2000 participants across two days, as they help organise, promote and run it.

Through research, they will discover what’s important to this cohort and deliver relevant, evidence-based resources that SRF participants and the broader community can all use.

“This could include resources on topics from warm-ups and cool-downs to how to run injury-free, women and running, aging and running and more,” Mel said.

“The hope is that we’ll eventually have a library of resources on our website, which is great for our local students to have that visibility in the community and on their resume.

“We’re excited to see what UC will provide to our community to help keep them healthy, injury-free and optimal. I don’t know of a lot of events that have that physical education factor.

“The partnership also means that come event day, we’ll have extra bodies on hand. Picture third-year students and faculty giving our runners invaluable tips on the day about everything from strapping to post-run recovery.

“Events like ours and sports in general don’t survive and grow without community partnerships and volunteers – we need help and support from individuals and groups.”

People running on a bridge

The partnership is a win-win-win for the University, the Festival and the broader community. Photo: Liam Budge.

Already, 50 per cent of SRF participants that have signed up so far this year have indicated they’re happy to participate in UC research, giving the university a solid research foundation.

UC Assistant Professor in Physiotherapy Jaquelin Bousie hoped the partnership would become long-term but, first and foremost, practical and functional.

“We want to inform runners about things they actually want to know about in a way they’ll want to engage with,” she said.

“A runner might want to know how to effectively manage their training load to avoid injury, and they can certainly Google that and it would return endless results, a lot of which will be opinion. Our students can critique the literature and produce accurate, evidence-based research.

“We also know that how we present research to other clinicians must be different from how we present research to the wider population, who may not have the same level of anatomical health literacy. That’s important when you’re trying to get to a consumer group that actually needs to use that information. So we might then link with the Faculty of Arts and Design to present the information in a digestible format. There is so much scope with this partnership.

“At the same time, our students, rather than having to do a boring literature review, can produce this thing knowing their skills, time and efforts are going where they’re needed. They have to do that work anyway as part of their unit, but this partnership allows them to tick off the assessment piece while giving back to the community.”

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Professor Michelle Lincoln, Acting Vice-Chancellor at the University of Canberra, said this hands-on involvement underscored a shared commitment to fostering innovation, collaboration, and social impact. It would enrich the students’ learning experience and contribute meaningfully to the success of SRF and the wellbeing of the running community.

“As Canberra’s university, we are embedded in the local community. Our vision is to make an impact and improve access to our research through meaningful and practical engagement across multiple disciplines and approaches,” she said.

“Sport is an integral part of UC’s vision to harness its power of sport for social justice, equality, inclusion, integrity and wellbeing, and our focussed efforts on women in sport and translating our knowledge of elite athlete performance to foster community sport participation.”

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