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Blood, sweat, tears and blisters: Training for a half marathon as a student nurse

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Mental health editor and running convert, Sabrina, has embraced her half marathon training as an outlet for stress and feels a better student nurse for it

The last thing you want to do after a long day at placement is go for a run. On the surface, this seems like an obvious statement. I mean, who really has the energy for that; you’ve already had to endure the harsh sounds of your annoying phone alarm to drag yourself out of bed at 5am, so how could you possibly be functional by the time it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon?

Four months ago, I decided to sign up for my first ever half marathon.

This decision was not taken lightly. I think it took me a good six months to warm myself up to the idea enough to finally click ‘sign up’ on the registration page. A combination of seeing my partner train, together with seeing a number of people on social media share their ‘post-race’ selfies, spurred me on to think “well, why can’t I do that too?’”.

The issue with social media is that while you may see photos that inspire you, you don’t always get to know the ‘behind the scenes’. So yes, you may be looking at an extremely delighted, accomplished person clutching a medal in one hand and a Lucozade in the other, but do you actually know how much time, effort, and blood blisters that person has had to go through to get to that final image on Facebook?

“You must create a novel outlet; making running your new ‘wind down’ activity”

Probably not. I mean, I certainly didn’t.

Nevertheless, once you make that decision to train for a half marathon, you soon realise how much of your student nursing lifestyle needs to change. The harsh reality is that when you arrive home from placement, you can’t always just slip into your pyjamas, make your fourth cup of tea for the day, and watch ‘Come Dine With Me’. Instead, you must create a novel outlet; making running your new ‘wind down’ activity. Even if that means lacing up your trainers to go out on a dark, chilly, foggy Wednesday night.

But do you know what? I’m not ready to give it up anytime soon.

There’s a common misconception that running is for tall, leggy human beings. Can I just say, that I 100% do not fit into this category. In fact, this perception can be harmful and if you were to look at everybody that came stumbling over race-day finish lines, you would see people of all shapes and sizes.

“I’m not ready to give it up anytime soon”

Learning to run has helped me in so many ways as a student nurse. It has provided a new outlet for me to reflect, to wind down, (to wind up!), to stay focused, to manage time, and to remain committed to my goals. In fact, I am happy to admit that it’s gone a long way in helping me to manage anxiety-provoking times during my nursing course.

Sure, it may seem like a predominantly physical activity, but really, it’s the development of your psychological and emotional resilience that gets your body over the finish line.

As I consider this, more questions come to mind. By choosing to fundraise for a mental health charity, I have had to learn to embrace technology and social media to promote my cause. I hear so many people only ever say negative things about social media but, frankly, I believe there is a certain degree of responsibility that users have in how they decide to use it. And really, without it, my message would certainly not have reached as many people far and wide as it has now.

“I have had to learn to embrace technology and social media to promote my cause”

This has enlightened me to the importance of how we, as mental health nurses, can better promote health within the wider community. Do we do enough to promote the physical health of those we work with? Or further still, do we do enough to look after our own physical wellbeing? That is perhaps a blog for another time.

What I will say is that while you may think that running and mental health nursing have very little in common, I would like to challenge you to think otherwise.

But for now, I best get my trainers on and concentrate on making it across that finish line in four weeks’ time.

Sabrina is fundraising for Bath Mind - if you would like to sponsor her you can do so via her fundraising page: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SabrinaCarter 

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