Hi everyone! As the new Running Bear ambassador, I’d love for you all to get to know me better so I thought I would share what life is like day-to-day as I balance life as an elite marathon runner with a full-time research PhD in genetic medicine at the University of Manchester.
I’ve always been a lark, so my day starts very early with a first breakfast. I’m usually out the house by 5am for my first training session of the day, a minimum of a 60 minute run. Depending on the day of the week, this is either an easy run or a tempo/threshold session set by my coach, Liz Yelling. I love running at this time of the day, when the streets of Manchester are deserted and I have the city to myself. I live in Levenshulme, and so my usual routes take me around South Manchester, including Disbury, Chorlton and Sale, and I especially enjoy my Saturday morning runs (which are always my longest endurance training runs of the week, usually a couple of hours) where I run along the Bridgewater Canal.
After a quick turnaround, I then hop onto my bicycle and cycle the 3 miles to work, arriving by 6:45am most days. I spend most of my time in my lab at the central Manchester University site, although I do some work over at St Mary’s Hospital in the Genetic Research Department. My main priority on arriving for work is a second breakfast and a coffee, before a busy morning in the lab. I am currently working with stem cells which I have generated from the blood cells of patients with the diseases that I work on, and so I can usually be found in the cell culture room or doing experiments at my bench in our main lab area. My partner is also a PhD student, but he is a theoretical physicist and works in a different building on the same campus, so we always meet at lunchtime for a picnic on the grass in the central area (or the café area in the physics building if the weather is not very inspiring!). I then do a couple more hours in the lab, before finishing by 3pm most days (although I have been in the lab until 7pm before during a particularly busy period!).
Once I’ve got home and wound down from work, it’s time for my second training session of the day. The nature of this session varies and is dependent on the day of the week, but will be one of a one-to-one weights session (with a cycle to and from the session), a session on an exercise bike, a run or a pilates class with my partner. It’s very important that I vary these sessions and do lots of cross-training, rather than just doing all of my training in the form of running, as it is helping to strengthen and condition my body, improve my cardiovascular fitness, reduce injury risk and support my bone density by including low-impact, weight-bearing exercise. In particular, I really enjoy going to weekly pilates classes with my partner, and it has been hugely beneficial to my balance and core strength. Following this second session of the day, I usually do some stretching and make time for specific exercises prescribed by my physio.
By this point, I am normally very tired, and so after dinner, my evenings consist of doing some more work, baking (I love making cakes, bread and biscuits and am the resident baker for the lab!), settling down in front of the TV with my partner and my knitting, reading, and doing some voluntary support work with local A-level students via phone and/or Skype. By 9:30pm there is a good chance I will have fallen asleep on the sofa, and so after a quick supper I’m off to bed to get a good sleep to support my training and make sure I am well-rested for tomorrow.