I have entered the Nottingham Robin Hood Half Marathon three years in a row, but due to injuries I’ve never even made it to the start. So, this year I waited until just a few weeks before to enter, aiming to complete it as part of my taper for the Yorkshire marathon two weeks later. What I completely forgot about was the life-changing event that was also taking place: starting a new job, as an emergency out-of-hours night vet. That week. Meaning the half marathon was the morning after my fourth night shift.. of seven.
I’d started thinking about how I would fit training in around my new hours, but this definitely hadn’t included a half marathon in the middle of the week! Sole-charge emergency work is an exciting step-up for me, and my absolute priority had to be performing as well as I possibly could. However, after finding my feet with some unusually quiet first shifts I decided to at least pack my kit – just in case. Having tempted fate massively (spot the new girl) I braced myself for a night of bleeding wounds, multiple cases of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis and most likely a caesarean section or two. But amazingly the night shift Gods were smiling on me and for the first time in the history of vet’s weekends we had not a single patient in the hospital overnight. So, I did my morning handover jogging on the spot in full race gear eating my pre-run banana as the rest of the staff (normal people) rolled their eyes at the crazy running girl and went home to bed.
This wasn’t the only thing that aligned for me that day. A few months ago I said goodbye to a much-loved patient. When you treat patients with serious illnesses for some time you form a special bond with their owners, and it is a shock when you realise that you have not only lost the animal, but you are suddenly losing that relationship too. However, occasionally just because that vet-client relationship is no longer there, it doesn’t mean your friendship cannot continue. Having first got talking after spotting our matching Garmins (cue a waiting room full of people while we compare running stories for 40 minutes!), we promised that one day we would meet up and go for a run together.
Against all the odds, the Robin Hood Half Marathon was that run. After finding each-other in the starting pen we decided to run together: with me post 14h night shift, and Izzy barely recovered from a serious ear infection you could say we were a dream team! The race was absolutely brilliant; the course took us through the city-centre as well as some beautiful parkland. I really enjoy a mix of terrain and find the city sections just as good as the parkland, there’s something pretty exciting about charging down roads which are normally full of traffic in a great big crowd of colourful runners. The support was incredible, with every single road lined with crowds – complete with banners and bowls of sweets! A special mention has to go to the unbelievable support of the Purple Ladies (otherwise known as the indominable Notts Women’s Runners group) who lined the streets. I was wearing my Guide Dog’s charity vest as part of my marathon fundraising, instead of my purple NWR top, but the support I received was just as passionate which really demonstrates the ethos of the club.
And we ran every single step together. There’s something about running with someone that makes it so much easier to really talk. I think it is the combination of the distraction of physical endurance, the connection of your bodies in the environment, and not being in direct eye-line. Running is a special kind of therapy, it makes me feel grounded and free all at once. Sharing that with another person opens up an honesty of dialogue that I don’t find as easy in any other situation. I’ve run over 500 miles so far this year, nearly all of which have been on my own. Those miles started off as a personal challenge to run the London Marathon; then each miles became a process of rebuilding myself both physically and mentally when I failed to make it to London after falling pregnant and subsequently suffering a miscarriage. This was the first run of my taper for the Yorkshire Marathon, and with each mile that fell away my legs felt stronger and stronger – as we hit the 10 mile marker I finally started to feel that I was going to finish this half finally believing like I probably could run another 13.1 miles. I can’t really explain what it will mean to me to finish that marathon, other than it feels like it is the final part of me that needs restoring.
Those last few miles were intense for both of us. When you’ve never run with someone before it can be hard to know when they need to hear that it’s ok slow down, and when they need you to say “No, keep pushing, you’ve got this”. Izzy had suffered an anxiety attack coming in to the finish last year, so as we rounded the corner we had to balance that rush of emotion and adrenaline. Hand in hand, we slowed our pace and focused on breathing in a steady rhythm. And we crossed that line grinning from ear to ear, totally overwhelmed by what it had meant to both of us individually, and what we’d achieved together. We’d been on this whole 13.1 mile journey side by side, travelled all those miles using just our bodies, and shared so many things. But next time we’re definitely meeting up for a coffee. And a cake. Like normal people.
Whilst I wouldn’t recommend a half-marathon in the middle of a week of night shifts, I have to say that afternoon was the best sleep I had all week. With my luck all used up, the remaining nights were pretty full on, and with seizures, RTAs, dog attacks and even shot wounds I’d say I earnt my stripes! But despite being up all night I found that when I came home I really struggled to sleep, I guess it is hard to switch off when you’ve been running on adrenaline for 14 hours. So maybe for me a (little, definitely littler) run is going to be a valuable tool in managing this new chapter.
At the time of writing I now have just one week to go before the Yorkshire marathon, but that special run has given me everything I needed to really believe I’m going to do it.