I’ve been sporty all my life. From swimming internationally as a youngster to being a ‘running Grandma’ as I’ve got older. In addition to sport, my working life has been in the NHS where I’ve progressed from being a student Operating Department Practitioner in the 90s to being a Senior Manager. That side of my life has had an academic thread to it and in 2018 I started my professional Doctorate in Health. This is where my worlds collide, running, working, studying- neither one of those things would happen independent of the other two! This is where Virtual Runner came into my life. Nobody in my friends/colleagues/family circle understood the complexity and busyness of my life or understood why I need to juggle so many demanding things. I started posting on Virtual Runner, initially just about running. In addition to all that was going on in life my Dad died in 2018 – I ran the morning of his funeral and posted on VR to tell everyone, and that’s when I realised that this group was more than just a running group. I connected with people in the group who really seemed to care, some were going through similar things and others were so supportive.
I then started to share things about my studying within the community. I’m a solo runner, I don’t want to talk to people when running or be part of a group- I want to run, think and reflect- but then share my thoughts with others afterwards – I realised I had a found a group that empowered me to do just that. The VR community are a group of people who were interested in more than just running- they saw the whole person and not just the latest 10k. I’d often start my posts with “not running related” just in case people didn’t want to hear about how my head was going to explode with too much information, or questioning why I was bothering to do this or why studying made me want to eat chocolate and there was none in the house! Really silly things but these posts got so many lovely responses it inspired me to carry on.
There are people in the group who are studying at all levels, I connected with members who were doing maths exams, writing assignments and one lady who had a PhD who was so encouraging. When I passed my VIVA in December 2021 the response I got on VR was amazing- people I had never met, were genuinely pleased for me. I submitted my completed thesis in February 2021 and promptly ran the Alicante Half Marathon that weekend. Alicante HM was my treat to myself (and hubby) for finishing my doctorate. Other people laughed that I would celebrate such a momentous occasion by running so far – my VR family completely understood. They reacted to my post with pure excitement and happiness for me.
Here we are now in February 2022, and I am sharing my research from my doctorate all over the country in the hope that my research will help NHS staff and patients have a better experience in healthcare. I posted in the VR group to share this and to thank them all for motivating me, encouraging me and when things were hard (can’t ignore the pandemic) always being there. So thank you Susan for creating the group, the safe space for us to share our running lives, but also for crafting a membership group that is a VR family- now that is the uniqueness of what you have created and I don’t think you will probably ever really appreciate.