- Vicky Gall, Volunteer Coordinator at Student Minds
The suggestion was made back in October that this may be something we should think about doing. Following a couple of 4km runs I thought “why not push myself, let’s do this!” Having run with the idea for a couple of months I managed to convince Rosie and Rosanna that this was a great challenge and would (if conquered) be an amazing personal achievement. Following a couple of short runs (they felt long at the time) it began to feel like something that, although a long way off, could be achievable! After all, the 12 week training plan didn’t need to start until the end of December, we were doing ‘extra’ training in advance of the real thing!
The 29th December marked the beginning of our 12 week training plan. Some would say it was a ridiculous date to start, who does anything in the week between Christmas and New Year? Not us however. We popped our trainers on and, in our respective locations, set out on a 30 minute run. Following the break, back in Oxford we began building our social calendars around the running commitments. Group dinners after runs and the odd trip to a new location for a long Sunday run helped to build team spirit, keep the excitement building and silence the negativity that we all experienced at some point.
Week 8’s long Sunday run got bumped to a Monday morning out of the office following a weekend of peer support volunteer training. With no route decided and us all feeling a little exhausted and less than confident about the 10 mile target, we set out in the rain for what was (regrettably) to be our longest run before the race. A jog through Marston, Summertown and into Wolvercote saw us at the top of Port Meadow. With the sun now shining there were two options; down the canal or a little further to run next to the river in Port Meadow. Having made it this far, we opted for the longer run in true ‘half marathon athlete’ style. We left the metalled pavements, slipping and sliding along the river bank back towards the centre of town. One hair-tree entanglement later we found the path and began a puddle dodging game. Each of us by this point was experiencing aches and pains, the town centre really couldn’t come quickly enough!
The next scheduled long run came on the Sunday of week 10 but was once again rescheduled for the Monday of week 11. Rosie and I headed to Blenheim for a mindful run around the gardens taking in the scenary with the promise of a cream tea at the end! Having struggled with injury the previous time we went to Blenheim, I found this run incredibly difficult mentally with a few niggling pains not helping. In some ways, I was defeated before I began but with Taylor Swift blaring I powered through, not to the 12 mile training plan target but to the 9 mile personal goal.
Race day came around far too quickly with a mix of feelings; dread and nerves of the longest run we were yet to complete, excitement for it to be over, regret for not sticking to the plan and of course motivation to overcome the final hurdle and raise lots of money for the cause we all feel so passionately about!
At the start line, following a #startinglineselfie we got chatting to the people around us. What struck us all throughout was the friendly nature of these events - people pulled together to motivate one another throughout the difficult periods and celebrate the small wins with one another. Local people and supporters turned up to cheer from the side-lines, with local clubs helping in the distribution of water at various points along the course.
With a strategy in place to help limit the amount of talking completed, we played game in which a conversation topic was suggested, time given for thought and then short sentence responses given (What would you do if you won £1million?). By 6 miles we were glad the strategy was in place, we were starting to tire and needed all the energy we had! Rosanna sped off here to conquer the distance as quickly as possible (an impressive 10 minutes quicker than the stragglers). Rosie and I powered on with the mind-set of slow and steady! Our legs felt heavy and at 9 miles we were in need of an energy boost but soon enough jelly babies were handed out!
With the injection of some music at the 11 mile mark, Rosie found a new lease of life and with a spring in her step started singing and dancing her way towards the finish line. Now struggling to be mindful and take in my surroundings I began to flag. We were so close and yet it felt so far. As we approached the last mile, more people were around cheering and clapping (or walking home medal in hand!). This really did help give us the boost we needed. When we reached the final two corners where friends and family stood cheering us on and taking photographs, we knew we could do it. Into the home straight we used the last of our energy for a sprint finish! Collecting our medals and various goodies seems now to be a bit of a blur.
We staggered to the car having met all our very enthusiastic supporters and ventured on to the reception generously coordinated by the Matthew Elvidge Trust. With so much ongoing support from the trust, following a refuel on the delicious food available, Rosie and I took over the mic along with other charities supported by the trust to let all in attendance know a little more about what we do and how invaluable the support of the trust really is!
The realisation that it is done and all that training was worth it is still sinking in. For all it was a major achievement, I am incredibly proud of the whole team for the hours put into training, the morale boosting throughout and the incredible fundraising effort raising a total of £2,320!
What to do with all our free time now? Who knows? A couple of runs a week maybe and some relaxing yoga, swimming or something completely new!
If you'd like to raise money for Student Minds by taking on a endurance challenge, visit our Fundraising page to find out how fundraising works and get some ideas on what kinds of things you could do!