Everyone has heard the story of the Tortoise and the Hare many times over. Parents tell their children about the boastful Hare and how his overconfidence lost him the race. Coaches tell their athletes about the commitment of the Tortoise, explaining that the battle is never lost until you have reached the finish line. This is a truly inspiring story that moves us all. But what many people do not realise is that there is a third character in this story. Let me tell you about the real hero, Larry the Biomechanist Beaver.

Larry was a bright beaver and was at the top of the class in every subject. The older Larry got, the closer he got to one of the biggest choices of his life: what degree would he study and where would it take him? He started looking at the career paths of his sisters and brother. Would he become an engineer just like his oldest sister? He absolutely loved to listen to the project leaders talking about the new dam design in his hometown and had a knack for mathematics. Yep, engineering was definitely a good option. Yet… watching his brother grow into one of the best beaver surgeons on the planet and seeing all the lives he saved on a daily basis was also very appealing. Maybe a medical degree? What about his love for sports? Should he try to get a scholarship like his youngest sister to play professional basketball? Would he be able to use the experience he gained over summer in assisting the local team’s physical coach? All these questions drove Larry crazy. How was he to make this decision? Why could he not combine all of his interests? In an attempt to take his mind of these daunting uncertainties, Larry’s teacher gave their class the opportunity to go on a field trip to celebrate NBD…

Unsure of what this National Beaver Day encompassed, Larry decided to give it a go. Arriving at the University in the big city, Larry soon learned that NBD actually stood for National Biomechanics Day. “What in the Big Beaver’s name is Biomechanics?” Larry thought. Their group was greeted by a beaver professor that gave them an introduction to the concept of Biomechanics. Larry’s eyes opened wide as a whole new world was revealed to him. He got introduced to concepts involving physics and biology, mathematics and neurosciences. He was told about the development of new medical devices through science and engineering. He learned about new rehabilitation strategies that were being tested in elite athletes, about how computer models were used to evaluate the material properties of new tail prostheses and about how academic beavers were exploring the distinct role of certain areas of the brain in digging performance. Just like that, all Larry’s doubts were gone. He did not have to choose between his passions, he would instead combine them all in this one amazing field of BIOMECHANICS.

And luckily so for the Tortoise. Without Larry the biomechanist in his support team, he may not have been able to utilise the running technique that optimised his running economy, or he would not have had the correct training program that fine-tuned his muscles and tendons for storing and releasing elastic energy with each step. He could have injured himself with his old pair of running shoes (which are not shown in most cartoons and movies due to sponsor conflict of interest). However, Larry developed a new shoe for him that helped the Tortoise dissipate energy from impact forces and still allowed him to transfer muscle-generated forces to the ground. Larry and his team of biomechanists further developed computer models that calculated the optimal shape of the Tortoise’s shell to minimise drag. Indeed, this legendary race could have had a very different ending if it weren’t for biomechanics and Larry, the unsung hero of this story.