Tuesday 1 March 2016

Fleet Half Marathon 2.0

-Vicky Gall

Last year I took part in the Fleet Half Marathon alongside my training partners, colleagues and friends, Rosie and Rosanna. We trained together, made it into a social event with lots of team dinners and great chats as we pounded the roads of Oxford. Together we overcame the mental blocks, motivated one another and we made it! We completed the half marathon and I vowed never to enter another...

I didn’t exactly stick to that vow I made. After a few months of no running but much swimming, I was starting to miss it. I was missing the adventure runs, exploring new areas. I noticed that entries for Fleet Half Marathon were open once again and so, I entered for 2016’s race.
Rosie, Rosanna and I before the Fleet Half Marathon, 2015.

There have been many moments this year in which I have questioned what I was thinking. With no training companions, it has been a struggle to motivate myself to brave the cold to get out there and fit in those all-important training runs. To say that I may have strayed away from the training plan would be an understatement. I not only strayed, I have completely ignored it! I have been out for a few relaxing morning runs but nothing more than 3 miles. A couple of weeks ago, I got an email reminding me that the big day is fast approaching, 6 weeks to go… This gave me the nudge I needed. I was now half way through my “training” and I knew I either needed to ramp up the training or decide that I wouldn't be able to do it.

With that kick, I dug out my running gear and got ready to start taking this whole thing a little more seriously. Following a few longer runs, I am starting to build my confidence that this will be possible. I have taken the approach that I will go out and run in as many green spaces as possible and keep adding to the route. This week, I set out with an ambitious (or so it felt) target of cracking the 10 mile mark. As I ran by the river, watching the geese run on water to help them take off, dogs scamper up and down the path being sure to keep their humans in sight and the rowers grimace through the pain, I found a rhythm and just kept going. I made it much further than I had imagined. It wasn't plain sailing, there were moments where I wanted to give up and just walk back but I tried a new method of dealing with this, run on the spot and count to 10 and then reassess, can you keep going? There were a couple of times that a 30 second walk was required but on the whole, I ploughed on, navigating my way along rivers and canals, around parks and along cycle paths or roads I had never been on before. For me, making an adventure out of the training is a great way to help keep me interested and boost my motivation to keep going.

I had no idea how long the run may have been. When I stopped the app I had been using to track the run and looked at the figures it was showing, I was shocked to see what it was saying. According to the phone, I had done 13.1 miles (dead on half marathon distance). As I write this, I don’t quite believe it, I thought I was a long way off being able to do this. Whether it was exactly that distance or the app was slightly out, I am feeling more confident that when race day arrives in two weeks’ time, I will make it around the course. Walking after it may be difficult. I am currently waddling like a duck as my legs don’t quite want to work as they usually do but of all the reasons to put myself through this again, raising money for Student Minds is a damn good one!

Mental health has been something that has been close to my heart for a number of years. Both my own experiences and those of my friends, have given a personal motivation to give back and to help more people feel less isolated when things are difficult and to help more people feel confident in the skills that they have to promote their own mental health and to support one another. As many people will know, remember or appreciate, student life can brings all sorts of challenges. We are told that our university years will be the “best of our life” but often it is over looked that as a student there are a whole range of new challenges. University can be incredibly difficult and that for many people, university life isn't all they’d hoped and dreamt of. We all need to know that when things get tough, there will be people there to support us. At Student Minds, we believe that peer support is central to better mental health. Good support networks give us the confidence to thrive. We aim to empower students to take action to foster an environment where everyone feels confident talking about mental health, asking for help when they need it and supporting others in turn. We support a national network of student volunteers, delivering effective skills training to enable students to look after their mental health and support others. Together we can bring about positive change for student mental health.

I am fundraising for Student Minds with this half marathon, and would appreciate any support in this. Whether you have a few pounds that you would be happy to sponsor me or are able to share my fundraising page with others, your support is invaluable! To help me on my way to the fundraising target, check out my BT MyDonate page.

If you want to challenge yourself, why not get involved with our #AmazingRaise!

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