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Deputy Director of Sport taking on the Cambridge Half

This Sunday I will be running the Cambridge Half Marathon! I will not glide along like a gazelle or go sub-2 hours! I am sure I will look a red, sweaty mess at the end and have very, very tired legs! But I am really looking forward to it!

I came back to running in the summer of 2018 following a bit of a break due to surgery! I felt heavy, de-motivated and very unfit so wasn’t sure what would happen when I put on my running trainers! Someone had told me about the Couch to 5km App so I thought I would give it a go! The first session involved 8 x 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking in between! Goodness me it was hard work, by the midway point my legs felt like jelly and I was breathing very hard! But having Olympian Michael Johnson coaching me through the session via my headphones helped me to keep going! I really ached the next day too but having made it through that first session I was hooked! I followed the programme diligently and in September did my first 5km Parkrun at Wimpole Hall. It was brilliant! It didn’t matter how fast you were, everyone was welcomed and encouraged around the course. I really wasn’t very fast but I managed to run pretty much the whole way although the big hill in the middle was sadly too much for me! But I felt elated when I crossed the finish line and ready to take on a new challenge.

After making it up to 5km I decided I was ready to join the Old Schools Running Group! I turned up at 6pm on a Tuesday in October 2018 to find a small group of staff in the courtyard limbering up for the run ahead. They were incredibly welcoming and, with their encouragement, I managed to keep going throughout the session. Even when I started to drop off the back a couple of people stayed with me chatting (well they were talking and I was concentrating on actually trying to breathe)! Having the Running Group in my diary each week has been brilliant as it makes me protect some ‘me time’ for exercise. Even when I am tired after a busy day at work I go because I know it will make me feel energised, boost my mood and allow my brain switch off from work before I go home to my family.

I am now in my mid-40’s and, whilst I have always enjoyed sport and exercise, I have found it a lot harder to find the confidence, energy, motivation and time to get out there since becoming a mum! And that is why the running group has been so important. 18 months after starting the group I am ready(ish) to take on the Cambridge Half....13.1 miles of road, cobbles and Colleges. I definitely wouldn’t have made it to the start line without the running group. It has not just been the positive impact of running together on a Tuesday but all the encouragement given through our little WhatsApp community too. There are eight members of the Running Group doing the Cambridge Half and raising money for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a charity that aims to raise awareness of mental well-being and the importance of talking openly about depression! As a group, we certainly all recognise how important running is to our own mental health and wellbeing. This is supported by research released by England Athletics in November 2017. This revealed that improvements in emotional health and wellbeing were experienced by three-quarters of runners. An additional survey of the RunTogether community found 89% of runners reported increased happiness as a direct result of running with others in a group.

The other fantastic thing that has happened since taking up running again is that my daughter, now she is a bit older, has been coming out with me for the last few miles of my long run (which really keeps me going when I am tired) and regularly runs and volunteers with me at Parkrun. All of which is a great boost to her fitness, mental health, social skills and confidence. 

So if you feel like you would like to give Running a go or run more regularly, I would really encourage you to join a group. There are various running groups around the University and across the local Community. The Sports Service has a 'Get me Started' group if you are new to running or coming back to running after a break. I help out with the 'Get me Started' Running Group, not because I have to, but because I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and seeing their incredible journey to becoming fully fledged runners!



To find out more about the Running Groups available around the University visit:

Couch to 5 k -

The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust -

Karen Pearce 

Deputy Director of Sport