It’s an ultramarathon, not a sprint
I have recently set myself the challenge of running a 90km route along the Suffolk coastline in order to raise funds for GIST Cancer UK, in memory of my friend’s father who passed away last year. GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumour) is a rare form of cancer but its ramifications for those affected and their loved ones are no less devastating. My friend’s father was fortunate to be enrolled in a drug trial which extended the time he was able to spend with his family in comparatively good health. Without the work of GIST Cancer UK, trials like this may go without funding and this is why I am running to raise money for their cause and hoping to do my part in raising the profile of their charity.
My girlfriend is joining me on the run. Like me she grew up in Suffolk and so the route, which meanders through so many touchstones of our childhoods, holds a special meaning for us both. It is not an organised event, we have simply decided to run the long distance walking route called ‘The Sandlings’ in a single day in September. When deciding to take on a feat like this, a great deal of effort goes into planning and preparation. It may seem initially that setting myself this challenge during the final part of my degree would be far too much to take on but I have found that making time to train has helped me to focus the rest of my time more effectively. Though there will surely be more pressure towards the peak of training where I will spend 8+ hours a week running, I hope that I develop the ability throughout the programme to carve out the time I need.
When starting to study medicine, it is almost impossible to avoid hearing someone say ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’. Though I would argue medicine as a whole is more like an ultramarathon, I agree with the sentiment. I have been reflecting recently on the similarities between training for this run and training to be a doctor. I think one of the reasons that I feel that the run is achievable, despite having never done anything like it before, is because medicine has taught me to focus on the incremental efforts required to achieve long term goals. It is easy to find the end goal daunting, whether it is one long run in September or passing final exams, but I find it important to consider the small successes that are achieved daily, whether it is running 5km or answering some practice questions.
Similarly, it is impossible to accomplish any great ambition without the help and support of those closest to us. My girlfriend will be with me through the ultramarathon just as she has been throughout my medical journey so far. Friends from the degree have been eager to offer their services as support crews, just as we have supported, fed and made tea for each other when we have been going through tough moments.
Finally, while the end goal of training provides motivation, it is not the ultimate purpose. Of course, I want to finish the run but more than this I want to become someone who can run long distances, push themselves and do more with their body. In the same way, I want to become a doctor but I see this as the starting point from which I can accumulate expertise over a long career in order to have a meaningful and positive effect on those I help.
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