Angela Foster-Swailes (BA 2001) is running the Cardiff University/Cardiff Half Marathon for neuroscience and mental health research.
I had been slowly pushing myself to run more frequently and for longer distances since doing my first park run in May 2016 and I had stalled. I knew the best way to push myself again was to sign up for something and the Cardiff University/Cardiff Half Marathon seemed like a big challenge.
I’m running for neuroscience and mental health research at Cardiff University because these diseases affect so many people. I’ve seen the effects of mental health issues with friends and these problems seem to be on the increase. Supporting research that will help us better understand, identify, and hopefully cure these problems is very important to me. I’ve also felt first-hand the positive effect that running (and exercise in general) has had on my mental health so it seemed fitting.
My training is going well; as a first time half marathon runner I wanted to build up slowly. I prepared a 16-week training plan which is up on my fridge so I’m reminded of it daily! I did get off to a shaky start; I contracted a viral infection that wiped me out and I was unable to exercise for four weeks. When I started my training it felt like I was having to regain all of my fitness so that was hard. Then two weeks into my training I pulled my hamstring which took a couple of weeks to get better.
Up until recently I have felt sick with nerves thinking about Race Day, that was until someone pointed out that Race Day is actually a reward for all the training I’ve been doing. All those lonely hours running on my own is building to my reward of when I’ll be running in a crowd with lots of spectators cheering me on. I did the Kidney Wales Cardiff 10k on 3 September to get used to race conditions; it was my first race and I loved it! The crowd and the atmosphere really do get you through, it’s made me feel a lot more confident about the half marathon. A friend who has run the half marathon several times told me that the first one is the easiest as all you have to do is focus on finishing – it’s subsequent ones that are harder as you try and beat your time. So that’s what I’ll be doing, just focussing on finishing, even if I have to crawl across the line!
One way I’ve kept motivated has been by doing virtual races. There are a number of companies around that do this like Virtual Runner UK and Pow Virtual Run. You choose a race you want to do (it can be a set distance in one go or a set distance across a month), you submit your times and they send you a medal in the post. The best part is 20% of the entrance goes to charity and the medals are great quality as well.
I’ve found Instagram a constant source of inspiration. I’m following someone participating in 26 marathons this year, and others tackling 100km ultra marathons. I document my training on Instagram and say what I plan to do training-wise, which makes me stick to it. I also insta story whilst out running, whether it’s a good run or not I’m always honest, and I’ve had lots of feedback (especially from non-runners) that they really enjoy all my updates. I use it as a tool for myself but if people get something out of that then it’s an added bonus. Keeping a record shows me how far I’ve come with my running. Progression is often slow, running definitely teaches you patience and perseverance!
I think the running community are a lovely, supportive bunch of people. I’ve lost count of the number of times a simple gesture like a smile or a thumbs up from another runner whilst out on my own has really lifted my spirits and helped me through. I’m fairly new to running and very slow but I make sure I celebrate all milestones and personal bests. I’ve learnt that comparison really is the thief of happiness and when I run I don’t compete with anyone but myself.
If you’d like to support Angela you can do so on her JustGiving page.
You can also follow Angela on instagram @sparklyang