In the early 1970’s, whilst studying Medicine at the University of Cape Town, and rowing for the South African Universities, Professor Tim Noakes discovered running quite by accident. Since then he has run more than 70 marathon and ultra-marathon races, including 7 Comrades Marathons and 15 Two Oceans Marathons. This convergence of his sporting and academic worlds was the beginning of his journey into the fields of exercise science and sports medicine. Today, Prof. Noakes holds both Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Science degrees from the University of Cape Town, is rated an A1 scientist by the National Research Foundation of South Africa, and is Professor in the Discovery Health Chair of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Cape Town. He is also author of Lore of Running, co-author of Running Injuries, Lore of Cycling, Rugby Without Risk and The Art and Science of Cricket, and has more than 450 scientific publications to his name.
Prof. Noakes began his exercise science and sports medicine research in 1981 in a small laboratory in the basement of the Department of Physiology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). With only one laboratory assistant and a single bicycle, he forged ahead with unbridled enthusiasm and initiative. The growth and success of the research led by Prof. Noakes resulted in the development of a brand new research unit, the UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM), which boasts state-of-the-art equipment, extensive facilities and internationally renowned research staff.
Over the past thirty years Prof. Noakes has contributed significantly to the scientific literature through his exploration of topical exercise science and sports medicine issues including marathon running and the heart, the biochemical and physiological parameters of endurance athletes, sudden death during endurance exercise, injuries in rugby players, understanding what makes African runners so fast and water intoxication in endurance runners. By nature of his chosen field of academia and his active participation in endurance sports, Tim is not only interested in the theory of sports science, he lives it.
Some may say that being a research scientist at the far tip of Africa can be isolating. On the contrary, Prof. Noakes has shown through his unique approach to research that this instead allows for fresh perspectives and new ideas. Consequently, as well as contributing to the global pool of knowledge in exercise science and sports medicine, he has challenged many existing dogmas in his quest to understand how the body responds to exercise and the associated challenges. For example, Prof. Noakes and his colleagues have recently revolutionised the thinking behind exercise, dehydration and fluid intake. And it is this non-mainstream thinking that has allowed Tim and ESSM to make very real contributions to exercise science and sports medicine.