Tuesday, 3 February 2015

From Snowy Lanarkshire to Sunny Malawi, via the Lake District, the River Dee and the West Highland Way.

My name is Michael, I'm in my second year of studying Learning Disability Nursing at Glasgow Caledonian University, and along with 5 other students I'm planning on doing my nursing placement in Malawi, and this is our blog documenting our progress on the journey to make this happen.

Pictures from a snowy training run 30/01/15
Hopefully we'll have time to talk about why we want to go to Malawi, what we hope to get out of it and, eventually, what we're doing while we're over there.  But first of all I want to talk about running; and like the event itself, I'll try and do it as quickly possible as I've got quite a lot to cover.

I ran my first 10k in 2007, did another a year later, my first Half Marathon in 2010 and the 13.1 mile distance became an annual training event for a few years until 2013 when I discovered a friend and had been diagnosed with cancer.  After my initial reaction ('You're joking?') I looked for positives to take from this (it gave perspective to routine work nuisances) and I spotted an advert for the Loch Ness Marathon, which was about 14 weeks away, just enough time to get trained up and raise some money for MacMillan Cancer Support.  I never explicitly said to my friend why I was raising money, perhaps I should, as I hoped as my friend went through his treatment, the effort I put into my training, and all the people that sponsored me would be a tacit sign of support and let him know he was in peoples' thoughts.

The trail I followed went near the summit of the hill in the centre.
I moved from South Lanarkshire to study nursing at GCU in 2013- two weeks before the Loch Ness Marathon, and I'll not quickly forget the Moving and Handling lecture the day after the race, when the lecturer had the entire nursing cohort repeatedly stand up and bend over to demonstrate the importance of good posture in avoiding injury and discomfort because I was in agony!

Once I'd recovered, running once again became means and a reason to keep fit- a way to enjoy the outdoors and clear my head.  Many of my best ideas have come while I'm running, some of the things you are reading now came to me when I've been out on the trails and doubtless more in the future will too.
About a year ago, the possibility of doing an overseas placement in summer 2015 (a long way away, I thought) which piqued my interest, and as I investigated the prospect it became apparent it was going to cost a lot of money, which meant one thing: fundraising.  We've been planning a great number of things to make this work, but my first thought was to what I can do to raise money- I'd already run a marathon to raise money so in the spirit of continuous development I signed up for an Ultramarathon (i.e. any race longer than 26.2 miles).

Was coming all this way on my own really so clever?
Like the Malawi project itself, it's a big undertaking requiring extensive planning, plenty hard work, commitment and some sacrifices.  And like the Malawi project it's made easier by breaking it down into smaller steps, so I planned a 24 week training programme (back in November- for a race in April!) and while I was on placement would often work 12 hour shifts on then do an 8 mile training run back to my flat (always in the dark, usually pretty cold).  Occasionally I even got up before 7 and before breakfast to run back into the unit- I was 'keen', according to many of the staff there.

The hardest part of following the training plan has been getting out for a run when I've had essays due and exams to study for: after working in a unit for 12 hours, it really is refreshing to go for a run to wind down and de-stress, especially when the alternative is an icy bike ride home or a trip on a cold, damp bus.  However, when the choice to go out in the icy cold and darkness when there is work you know needs doing...  In the warmth of a well lit library.  With easy access to coffee and chocolate, well...

As a result I'm feeling slightly less sharper than I should, possibly carrying a bit more weight than necessary (thank you, coffee and chocolate) and it's not helped by a niggling injury I picked up on a 21 mile run a couple of weeks ago.  However this Saturday (7th Feb) after I finish work in Edinburgh, I'm driving a hire car down to the Lake District, for the first of my 2 big races to prepare for the Highland Fling, something called the Grizedale Trail 26.  This will be my third marathon, my first run on trails and easily the hilliest run I've ever done.  And although I'll not be attempting to run it fast it's hard to believe I'm going into this as a 'training run'.

But first there's an assignment due for Friday, an LD Nurses Society to get off the ground (to help with publicity and to raise funds), a presentation to work on, a class debate to research for, self directed study and paid employment - I probably should stop blogging now!
Most of the reasons why I go running.  Medwyn Valley, South Lanarkshire. 30/01/15

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