Sports Massages

Unfortunately this blog does not start with the news that I am now back running – after only a couple of minutes a gentle jog on grass began causing me shin pain every time I put my leg left down. I am in the process of arranging a scan on my leg in order to finally rule out the possibility of a stress fracture. However, the good news is that I really enjoyed those few minutes! My love of running remains strong nearly four months into this injury and I will be back training eventually!

So, with apologies for yet another injury related blog, this article is about sports massages. I have been seeing a physio regularly but over the last few weeks I begun having sports massages. I used to be really sceptical about the value of these, my view being that if you stretched and used a foam roller then you could do the same job in half the time. However, I have reached the stagSports massagee where I am going to try anything at all that might help me get running again so I decided to give this a go. This makes me feel like I am proactively trying to recover rather than just waiting, resting and swimming.

The first sports massage I had was incredibly painful! Despite regular stretching and foam rolling it seemed that all my muscles were really tight and sore. A couple of physios have even described me as an ‘enigma’ – I stretch, rest etc and yet my muscles refuse to recover! The next day my legs felt the best they had done for several months which is what convinced me to book in a couple more sports massages. I don’t mind if the massages hurt, that just tells me they are doing some good.

The massages have also identified that I apparently have tight muscles in my lower back. Essentially every muscle I have is tight and sore but this is apparently particularly important because it causes an imbalance in the way I put weight onto my legs. Obviously this has led to me incorporating some back stretches into my regular routine.

Are sports massages a miracle cure? No, but then I did not expect them to be. All I know is that I want to get back running and that, given I think these are helping, I am going to carry on having the occasional massage.

It is Easter this weekend, the weekend where we celebrate the best news in the world. I hope you all have a good Easter and I pray that I will get back to you with my own good news next time.


The Causes of Injury

Hi everyone,

I am afraid this is going to be my second injury related blog is a row (it is now nearly three months since I went for a run…) I will get better and I will get back to running but, predictably, the length of time out is very frustrating! I therefore decided it would be worthwhile to write a blog about why I think I got injured and why my injury has gone on so long. If my thoughts help someone else avoid a long and frustrating injury then great!

First, and I have to admit I was silly here, it is important to take note of niggles. Every runner gets niggles and aches while training, however when you begin to get precisely the same pain every time you run and it persists after running it is probably worth looking at. In my case I began to get a pain in my leg but just ignored it and assumed it would go away. Even when I was limping slightly after runs I assumed it was just tight muscles and if I stretched more it would be OK. It turns out it was tight muscles but that they had begun to ‘stick’ to the bone and that was what was producing the pain. I am now stretching, foam rolling and massaging every day in an attempt to loosen of my muscles which remain very tight three months in. Even once a physio told me it might be stress fracture (this still hasn’t been totally ruled out) I continued to run. I was in a slightly exceptional situation given Varsity cross country was only a couple of weeks away (and if I had my time again I would still chose to race Varsity) but in a normal situation it had become clear I should take a break. In reality I should have stopped running about a month before I did and I am sure that keeping on running on an injury was a factor that led to this prolonged break.No running

In fact, I think the failure to stop earlier may have deeper roots within my injury. Everyone needs a week or two off at some point to recharge and recover. My idea of a summer break was to climb Kilimanjaro and when I got back from my ‘break’ I went straight back into training. To be frank this was just stupid! Furthermore, once I finally allowed my injury to force me to stop running my idea of a rest was to substitute a 60 minute run with a 60 minute walk. This did put less pressure on my leg but was still not the rest I am sure the physio had in mind. As you can probably tell, I love exercise and fresh air but, over the past three months, I have gradually scaled down my activity levels to the lowest level I can remember them being. I am probably still doing more than is advisable but since I replaced lengthy walks and cross training in the gym with a bit of swimming and aqua jogging I think my leg has started to recover.

Other factors in my injury have been suggested as being a weak core and weak gluts. This is probably accurate given, until three months ago, I had never done a proper core workout in my life. I am now doing them twice a week in the hope that this will help prevent a recurrence of injury once I am running again. My injury also came soon after I switched to wearing flats for intervals in training. Clearly this is something many people do but up until that point I have done all of my runs in trainers and I was now doing about 40% of my running in flats which give less support. I feel that has to have been a contributing factor. Furthermore, various blood tests have also shown I am deficient in calcium, which helps explain why my bones feel so sore, vitamin D and iron. While I general try and avoid medicating or supplementing away a problem I have started taking some multi-vitamins in an attempt to sort out these deficiencies.

While I will never say I am glad to have been injured, having such a long break from running has taught me many valuable things. Primarily it has reinforced within me how much I love running – I don’t care at the moment how fast I am going, I just want to run! When I am back running (I pray this will be soon!) I will be a wiser runner and hopefully more able to avoid serious injuries like this in the future.

I hope to get back to you with better news next time!


Aqua Jogging

After nearly a month I have finally got around to writing my next blog. Given my hatred of the treadmill and my love of the outdoors you can probably guess from the title of this blog that I am currently injured. I haven’t run since 6th December (yes, I am counting….) due to leg injury that may or may not be a stress fracture depending on which physio I ask. In any case, when you notice your leg is feeling odd when walking, or even sometimes when sitting, it is a sign that running has to temporarily go out of the window, its high impact nature making it one of the worst things you can do when nursing a leg injury.

After I eventually accepted that I had to reduce the amount of walking I was doing as well as stopping running I began increasing the amount of cross training I was doing in an attempt to ensure I will not be starting from base zero when I am eventually able to run again. Unfortunately my slow pace of recovery saw the physio inform me that even using the cross trainer in the gym should be avoided for the time being and thus I turned to the swimming pool. I do enjoy swimming, having been able to swim since the age of two, but my reason for avoiding it initially was that ploughing up and down lengths does not use the leg muscles I need for running.

After mentioning this to a friend he suggested I try aqua jogging and I am now doing this regularly. The principle is very simple – you put on a flotation belt, get out of your depth in the swimming pool and then perform exactly the same running actAqua joggingion you would use on land. Aqua jogging is a great way to cross train for running because it is essentially zero impact on your leg and still uses the necessary leg muscles. It gives your thighs especially a real workout! See this article for a longer and more in depth break down of the benefits of aqua jogging –

I have to admit that I felt a bit silly the first time I tried aqua jogging. The flotation belt is quite a bulky item and it has to be the slowest method of moving through the water I have ever tried. Added to that is the fact that you have to remain out of your depth so you end up very slowly doing half lengths in the slow lane of the swimming pool.

However, aqua jogging does give you a proper workout which is something I had been really missing because, for me, swimming and the gym just do not have the same effect as running. Aqua jogging is also clearly not the same as you can hardly aqua jog across the fields but there is something comforting about going through the motions of running even if it is indoors in a swimming pool. Aqua jogging does suffer from the same boredom issues as the gym but, in the gym, my injury confined me to one piece of equipment whereas I can mix up aqua jogging, swimming and swimming drills to make a bit more interesting.

Aqua jogging can never replace running but it is a good stop gap to help ensure I retain some level of fitness until my leg is finally recovered and I can go back to what I love.


Christians in Sport

Hi again everyone,

This week I am going to be talking about a wonderful group called Christians in Sport ( This is a global group that has the stated aim of trying to ‘reach the world of sport for Christ’. If you are a Christian and play sport at any level then I would really encourage you to find a group and get involved. Most universities will have a group you can join and many churches also provide possibilities for getting involved.

Christians in Sport started in the 1970s but has grown to become a global movement. In 1984 the charity gained its first official director in Andrew Wingfield Digby and, with the help of high profile sportspeople, both sport and the church began to take notice of the group. It was in the 1990s that the group expanded into universities with students meeting up weekly to pray for friends and share the Christian message. Today the movement is 19,000 strong, aided by the success of the 2012 Olympics convincing many churches of the need to engage in the world of sport.

For me the great thing about Christians in Sport has been that it introduces me to so many like-minded people. I have always found that sports people, including across different sports, have a natural camaraderie between them due to the shared character traits that attract them to sport. Christians in Sport adds a whole new dimension to this because we share not only a passion for sport but, more importantly, a belief in Jesus Christ as our lord and saviour.

Christians in SportI only became a Christian very recently and can honestly say that it has transformed my attitude to sport. The weekly Christians in Sport meetings have been crucial to this because they help me to understand how my faith should affect every part of my life, how my love for Christ should influence my passion for running.

The greatest change has been internal. I have always been a very competitive person, always wanting to do better than the next person. However the Christian message of love and hope for all has helped to take the edge of any disappointment in my performance and enhance my joy at seeing others perform well. I would be the first to admit that my running is going poorly at the moment but, by focusing on God and the long term, my illness and injury problems are easier to deal with.

One of Bible passages that has most resonated with me is Romans 8, verse 28. For the uninitiated, Romans is a letter written by St Paul to the church at Rome, probably within 30 years of the crucifixion of Jesus. This verse states ‘we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him’. In other words – we may be struggling now but God has a plan for us and we can trust that through his judgement that all things will work out for the best. When applied to my sport this helps me to understand that, for a reason I don’t yet know (and may never know – see Isaiah 55, verses 8-9) my current injury and lack of form has a purpose, reducing the frustration and disappointment that I feel. Of course I still feel these emotions but the teachings of Christianity, applied to my running through Christians in Sport, help me to manage them, instead focusing on the joy of others as they perform well.

I don’t know whether any of my fellow runners would say they have noticed a change in my attitude since I began attending Christians in Sport. It is quite possible they have not but that is fine – the changes are internal rather than external and so long as they can count me as a loving and caring friend then I am happy.

I suppose my message in this blog is very simple – becoming a Christian has changed my outlook to life, including sport, and Christians in Sport has been a real help in bringing this about. I am always happy to talk about my journey to Christ, as I am sure are any other Christian, and, if you are already a Christian, then I cannot recommend joining Christians in Sport enough.


A Rant Against the Treadmill!

With the celebration of Christ’s birthday over for another year many fridges will be groaning with leftovers and many waistbands will be a bit tighter than a week ago. For many people this leads to a New Year Resolution that involves exercising more. That is great but, as many people know, if the resolution to exercise several times a week makes it out of January then it is doing well. I think I have identified a contributing factor to this – for the majority of people their exercising is done in a gym. Please don’t misunderstand me – gyms can be very useful. The erg machine is an essential part of running training, the cross trainer can aid recovery from injury and doing weights can be helpful if you are looking to take your running to the next level. However there is one item of gym equipment I can see no use for and would be quite happy to ban, the treadmill!

Given I am a runner you may well be surprised to hear of my hatred for the treadmill but there are several reasons for my dislike of the machine. First, and most importantly, the treadmill is exceptionally boring to use! Over the last four and a half weeks injury has forced me into the gym to use the cross trainer and it is mind numbingly dull to stay in the same spot staring at the same patch of wall. Even if you are lucky enough to have a gym with a TV you can watch or you listen to music it is still so dull! Many of us have to spend 9-5 everyday staying in one place and staring at a computer screen – when your exercise is essentially the same thing but with added sweat and exhaustion it is no wonder people quickly give up!

Furthermore, by running on a treadmill you are missing the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors. You are missing the wind on your face and the fresh air in your lungs. The exhilaration and the sense of freedom and escape you get by running outside just cannot be matched by running inside on a treadmill, eTreadmillspecially as gyms are often stuffy and you are frequently surrounded by other people. I know people often state that a gym is necessary because otherwise the dark, wind, rain etc would stop them going for a run. The dark really shouldn’t be an issue as there are so many well lit streets and cycle paths nowadays and if you join a running club then you can run with other people and learn the best routes. If you really can’t face running outside in bad weather then fine, use the treadmill
occasionally but try to keep the vast majority of your running outdoors. In any case, I personally running when the weather is bad only makes me feel more refreshed afterwards – it certainly blows away the cobwebs!

I also feel that it is necessary to point out that gym membership can be really quite expensive and that it is far cheaper to simply step outside of your front door. Running is one of the simplest and purest things you can do and by adding a gym and a machine into it you dilute the nature of the sport and therefore dilute the simple pleasure of putting one foot in front of the other.

Finally, if you are attempting to get quicker at running then a treadmill should be avoided at all cost. Running inside is so different to running outside that if you train predominantly on a treadmill you will not see the improvement you might do if you ran in the fresh air. If you are training for a half-marathon then the there is no way the treadmill can prepare you for the people, the weather, the hills and the corners that you will encounter. The same goes for cross country – you can’t practice running through mud when you are inside in the dry! If you only train on a treadmill you will probably end up with a false impression of how fast you can go because if you can run a 25 minute 5k on a treadmill then I bet you would find you run around 26 minutes outside. A treadmill is an artificial simulation of running and this can lead to disappointment in races and ultimately disillusionment with the sport. I know many people will argue that you can set a treadmill to different inclines and different speeds and therefore run an interval session on it but I firmly believe that you would get more benefit from doing the same thing outside!

My message is simple – exercising more is a great thing to do and I really encourage it but if you want to keep going and to maintain your enthusiasm then do not use a treadmill! It is boring, expensive and far less beneficial than running outside.

As you can probably tell from the length of this article, this is an issue I feel strongly about. However I reckon it is time for me to climb down from my soapbox and end this blog. See you all next time!


Varsity Cross Country

Hi everyone!

I am sorry that it has been such a long time since my last blog, I am sure you have all been waiting on the edge of your seats… (If there is anyone who is actually following this blog then please note that I have finally managed to enable subscriptions – if you want an email every time I blog then scroll down on the right hand side, click register and follow the instructions. Hopefully that should work!)

This blog is about what has kept me so preoccupied for nearly a month that I have not found the time to write anything – don’t worry I am not about to give you a lesson in Anglo-Saxon history (although I am always happy to do so J), this blog is about Varsity cross country!

For those who don’t know, Varsity is a yearly competition between the Cambridge University Hare and Hounds CUHH logo(CUH&H) and Oxford University Cross Country Club (OUCCC). Besides the war years, the gentleman’s blues (first team) race has been held annually since 1880 and the ladies blues race began in 1975. This means that 2015 saw the 125th gentleman’s race and the 40th ladies race. The race is hosted by Thames Hare and Hounds around Wimbledon Common. If you want more information on the history of blues Varsity then have a look at Thames Hare and Hounds website –

However, the reason Varsity has kept me so occupied is that it is not just a one day event, the II’s-IV’s matches take place the weekend before blues with the location alternating between Cambridge and Oxford. The weekend of II’s-IV’s is perhaps the most important race of the year for most of CUH&H and OUCCC and this year it was hosted by Oxford at Shotover Country Park.

One of the things I love the most about cross country is that it really is for everyone. While there are 14 selected runners for the women and 24 for the men (these are selected following Cuppers two weeks before II’s-IV’s), the ladies III’s and men’s IV’s are open to everyone. These are known as the mob matches and, essentially, the more runners you have the better chance you have of winning!

Unfortunately the day of II’s-IV’s could have gone better with the Cambridge men losing all three matches. The Cambridge women fared better. They took the individual victory in the mob match and I was thrilled to watch the team win the race as well, a difficult accomplishment when you are away from home and therefore, almost automatically, have the smaller team. The real drama of the day came in the ladies II’s match. The front runner, a Cambridge girl, got lost on the course and, despite Cambridge still claiming 1st and 2nd, this altered the team result. CUH&H and OUCCC were unable to agree on what had caused this leading to the team result being nullified. Despite this it was a great day for CUH&H ladies. We came away with both individual victories, victory in the mob match and the knowledge that, had our front runner not got lost, we would have won the ladies II’s as well.

Blues Varsity (11)A week later it was time for blues Varsity. After the drama of the weekend before (and the navigational mishap in the ladies blues race in 2014) everyone wanted nothing more than for the race to go off smoothly. Thankfully it did – with about ten signs and three marshals at last year’s point of error there was absolutely no chance of a repeat. Unfortunately the Cambridge men lost out to very high quality Oxford team, giving Oxford the series lead as 63-62. However, I think it is fair to say that the Cambridge women dominated, getting all seven of their runners back before Oxford’s 3rd runner and claiming the individual victory! This closed the gap in the overall series to 23-17 in Oxford’s favour. I was a very happy captain that evening!

Varsity is strange, there is no other cross country event where there will be so few of you in the race and the competitive nature of sport gets to all of us. I don’t hate Oxford and have some very good friends there but, come Varsity, beating them is all that is on your mind. I suppose that it what comes from 135 years of one-on-one rivalry. I expect some people are already beginning to look forward to next year when Cambridge will hope to have strengthened its men’s side and will look to repeat the domination shown by the ladies this year.

Hopefully there will not be such a long gap to my next blog!


Wearable technology

One of the things I love about running is the simplicity of it – all you need is a pair of trainers, a t-shirt, some shorts and you are off. It really is the leveller of all sports, available to everyone without all of the expensive kit of many other activities. However, it seems to me that the no fuss, simple nature of putting one foot in front of the other is gradually being eroded as technology enters into the running world.

Some of the advances in running equipment are definitely advantageous – I make near daily use of technical t-shirts and other items of specialised clothing and virtually never run without my padded running socks. I don’t know how much difference all of this makes but there certainly is something to be said for wearing clothing designed to aid circulation and aeration when running. I also have no problem with most of the advances in footwear, although I am yet to properly buy into the idea of barefoot running. Running can certainly be done without several different pairs of shoes and, until a couple of months ago; I did all of my training in trainers. However, once your enthusiasm for running goes beyond a certain level, investing in lighter weight flats can help when doing interval sessions and spikes or trail shoes are essential if you plan on racing cross country. Equally, all the different equipment designed to aid recovery and injury prevention is useful no matter how much running you are doing. Specially designed items such as foam rollers are very useful but it doesn’t even need to be that complicated – a tennis ball, a golf ball or simple stretches can be equally as effective.

The area of technological advance within running that I have a problem with is the exponential growth in the use of wearable technology. I don’t have a problem with this technology per-se; it is more the use to which people put these items. I do own a Garmin running watch and, at times, I find it useful. I will wear it when racing a 10k or a half marathon to help me with my pacing but that is about the only time I will ever measure my paRunning watchce. I also use the watch when I set out to run a certain distance or if I need to measure out the length of an interval in training. However, I never wear a watch when running a cross country race and don’t measure my pace when doing intervals. I run as fast as I can and I don’t need a watch to tell me that! I feel no need to constantly measure my pace, track everything I do or log everything onto the running website Strava (in actual fact I don’t even have a Strava account and am not tempted to start one). I also don’t own a heart rate monitor and have no intention of getting one.

To many of you this will sound like a form of heresy – I have heard several friends say, albeit jokingly, that if a run is not logged on Strava then it didn’t happen and doesn’t count. I certainly know people who say they feel ‘naked’ if they head out for a run without their watch on. They extol the virtues of running watches and heart rate monitors and I
can see that they do have their uses with watches allowing you to regularly monitor your performance and a heart rate monitor can help to identify illness early. However, while this can be beneficial, to my mind this desire to log and track everything has gone too far and is harming the ability to enjoy the basic act of running.

If you are constantly monitoring yourself, checking your performance compared to yesterday or last week, the pure and simple joy of running for its own sake is gone. My favourite runs of the week are when I head out for six or seven miles of steady running (with no watch). I just run how I feel and enjoy what I am doing.

Wearable technology can be useful and has a role in training but, in my opinion, the obsession with logging absolutely everything has gone too far. Running is one of the simplest and purest things you can do but this is being diluted behind the computer screens filled with stats and data.

See you soon!


The Work-Life Balance

The work-life balance is important at all stages of life – everyone needs to work hard but you also need time to relax and do what you enjoy otherwise exhaustion and stress will set in. I feel that this balance is especially important when you are at university, especially one such as Cambridge where there is a tendency to subsume everything to the demands of work. You will work harder than you have ever worked before through the course of your time at Cambridge but work is not all there is. Time to unwind is essential to your well being and to your academic success.

What you do to relax can vary from acting to music or even just watching some TV but for me it has always been sport. Throughout my time at school and university I have always been sporty. People often ask me how I find the time to run alongside my degree but my response to that is that without my running I wouldn’t be able to do my degree. However fascinating your work or degree, you cannot do it 24/7 without burning up. I am convinced that if I did not take the time out of work to run my results would be significantly worse. One person I know was forced to take a break from sport due to injury and the grades they achieved dropped at the same time.

For me, the main benefit of running, and something that makes it a better way to relax than activities such as music or drama, is that the fresh air really helps to clear my head. Also, once you are running nothing matters besides you and keeping on putting one foot in front of the other. While mental toughness certainly matters and races and hard training sessions can leave you mentally tired, it is also possible to go for a steady run and just switch off. If I head out for a run stressed, by the end the process of running will almost certainly have cleared my head and made me feel RAF match 1significantly better. Several times I have come back from a run, sat back down to work, and found that I have somehow solved the problem I was struggling over without even thinking about it. Furthermore, through extra-curricular activities you will form really close friendships, a benefit that cannot be praised highly enough!

Finding the ideal work-life balance is far from easy and it will not always happen. I have found that the main danger is doing too much of the ‘life’ part and not leaving enough time for my work. When it comes down to it we are at university to complete a degree but universities such as Cambridge offer so much else as well and taking advantage of this can be hugely beneficial. At the start of this term I somehow decided that, given I was a ‘sensible’ third year, I could balance my degree with my running as well as taking up numerous other responsibilities at the same time. As you can guess, this did not go well but I feel it is better to try and do too many extra-curricular activities than not to do any.

I believe that it is possible to keep up a couple of activities besides your degree and still feel like you are doing them properly. For me these activities are church and running and being involved in these have made my university experience so much better. Clearly different activities require different levels of commitment but throughout my undergrad I have taken a couple of hours off in the middle of every afternoon for running, or if it is a rest day then simply for a walk, and I feel that this has been essential to my time here. I would estimate that I usually work 7 or 8 hours in a day. Sometimes I work more, sometimes less but, I have never done an all-nighter and I don’t feel I have experience the essay crises other people appear to have.

With good time management it is possible to have a life as well as complete your degree to the best of your ability. In fact, I believe I could not have one without the other. I honestly believe that without finding time to do those things I enjoy, without finding time to run and attend church, my academic results would be significantly worse.

Hope you have enjoyed this blog! See you next time!

Liz 🙂

Should I Cross the Pond?

Hopping across the pond and going to America on a sports scholarship is a goal many runners and other sports people dream of. It is a well trodden route for British runners who are deemed to have potential to go further and, at the end of last year, three of my fellow Cambridge University Hare and Hounds made the move with two more investigating it this year. Until eight months ago this was something I had never considered, and then I got my first request to apply for a place. After rapidly checking this wasn’t a hoax, I began to get really excited and questioned friends who were also going through the process. Once I had got my head around the complex American system and terms such as ‘red-shirting’ (this is when an athlete does not compete for a year in order to extend their eligibility to a season where they are in better shape) I began to assess the pros and cons of making the application compared to applying for a Masters in Cambridge and carrying on with my running here.

The advantages of taking my running to America were obvious. Firstly, the quality of com
petition over there is far higher. A fellow member of CUHH has estimated that coming in the top 60 of an NCAA race would place you in the top 5 at BUCS cross country. There are great athletes inNCAA Britain but over in America they become concentrated as the colleges compete in an extremely competitive environment. This environment is often attractive to the top runner and forces them to perform well if they are to succeed.

On top of this, the funding available for sport in America far surpasses that in Cambridge. This is crucial as, without a scholarship, American fees would make attendance impossible for many people. The funding also means that athletes are given full sets of high quality kit for free and they have physios, nutritionists and coaches assigned to them. Basically, all your sporting needs are catered for.

It is also far easier to focus on your sport in America and see how far you can get. The pressure of work is certainly far less than in Cambridge and you are expected to prioritise your running over your academics. After three years of Cambridge deadlines and expectations this could be seen as a welcome change. Furthermore, if you want to combine the quality of running in America with world class academics then you can. Places such as Stamford are proof that top universities don’t have to ignore sports funding, and I am a firm believer in the idea that doing sport can improve your academic performance.

However, there is another side to this story, a side which has influenced my decision not to apply to America and to apply for a Masters in Cambridge. America can make you or it can break you. Alongside all the stories of success and enjoyment are tales of athletes being made to run through injury, therefore making the problems worse, and an unhealthy focus on sporting success at the expense of the individual. To me running has always been a hobby I enjoy and I fear the pressure many colleges in America place you under would break me. The coaches over there are highly paid professionals and they know that if their team doesn’t perform they may well be sacked or they might lose a significant amount of their funding. This causes them to push athletes to their limits. Some people thrive in this environment but if you don’t you are stranded far from home in an unfamiliar place being made day after day to do something you are no longer really enjoying. A couple of people I know went to America on sports scholarship but have now returned after finding the intensity just too much

Despite these issues I was still tempted by America. Maybe I would thrive, maybe it would be the making of me and launch me on a career path I had never previously considered. There were two elements that really put me off applying to America. Firstly, my academic interest is in the history of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria and this is clearly easier to study from England than America. The Masters in Medieval History offered by Cambridge has really captured my imagination and I really hope I get in!

Secondly, and more importantly, the type of running they do in America does not suit me. The races I thrive in involve hills, mud and longer distances. That is why cross country is my favourite running discipline and I even tried out my first mountain race in September. It was great fun! However, in America ‘cross country’ seems to involve about 6km around a playing field and running on the track in the summer appears to be compulsory. The idea of being forced onto flat, boring ‘cross country’ courses does not appeal – I am concerned enough about reports that BUCS cross country this year is on a flat course! Also, one of my friends who is in America reports that everything is done as a team. This is good in theory and she seems to be enjoying it but I have always valued going for steady runs by myself. They give me time to think and never being allowed to run by myself would be far from ideal.

Furthermore, I have got to know Cambridge in the last two and a bit years. It is a wonderful city that suits me, evenCUHH logo if there is a deplorable lack of hills. Given the running success I have achieved in Cambridge why would I risk all and head to America? The Cambridge University Hare and Hounds is an amazing club. The other club members are friends first and runners after and I have developed a good camaraderie and friendship with our coach. I love Cambridge, I love CUHH, I love Anglo-Saxon history. Why would I leave?

America would be an adventure and the sports system over there has the potential to produce world class athletes. However, while the atmosphere and type of running over there suits some people, it is not for me. Give me the hills and mud of England and the sport system in Cambridge any day!


Gender equality in sport

Gender equality is an issue that is close to my heart. I feel that sometimes women are too quick to blame sexism for why things don’t work out for them but sexism undoubtedly exists and the glass ceiling is a very real problem. This is the case in sport as well as in business or any other sector of work. Only 18 per cent of qualified coaches are women and almost half of all publicly funded national governing bodies relating to sport have less than a quarter of their board as women ( The pay gap is obvious as well – in 30 per cent of sports men get paid significantly more prize money than women with football, cricket and squash as three of the main offenders ( Improvements have been made over the years, such as when the Australian open in tennis began offering equal prize money in 2001 and athletics in 1993, but the job is not complete.

However this bleak picture of inter-national sport is not necessarily reflected across the spectrum. My experience of sport and gender equality while at university has been almost entirely positive and any move towards greater equality have had the full support of all member of the Cambridge University Hare and Hounds (CUHH) so that the situation now resembles one where there is no discernible difference in the treatment of the men and the women.

It is true that there are more men in CUHH than there are women (there are 24 selected male runners for Varsity cross country and only 14 women) but this reflects a national trend rather than anything within the university. Roughly 1.9 million fewer women participate in sport every month than do men and over 2000 men compared to 865 women competed in the National Cross Country Championships last year. Indeed, CUHH has made improvement in this area, the tireless work of the last two ladies captains (Megan Wilson and Katy Hedgethorne) bringing the quality of the ladies side up to a position whereby the number of selected women was increased from 12 to 14.

In all the ways it feasibly could have been, my experience as a female athlete in Cambridge has been one of fair and equal treatment. The men and women train together, have socials together and are in every way one club. It is true that it is easier for this to occur in cross country than sports such as hockey or football given our races tend to be on the same days in the same locations but there is a team spirit in CUHH that pays no attention to gender. This attitude has always been prevalent in CUHH with the ladies Varsity match being on the same day and in the same location as the men’s since its conception in 1976. Our current junior committee had 8 women and 12 men, a balance which accurately reflects membership of the club.

While I cannot pretend that CUHH’s track record is one of gender equality throughout every stage of its history, I can say that every time an inequality is pointed out all members of the club have supported it being changed. This has been most noticeable in the criteria with which a full blue, Cambridge’s highest sporting accolade, is awarded. When I arrived at the university two years ago it was significantly easier for man to gain a full blue than a woman. Every man who ran in the blues Varsity match and beat a scoring Oxford runner was awarded a full blue whether they won the match overall or not. However, for the ladies only four of the six blues Varsity match contendRAF 2ers were eligible for their full blue and even then only if the team won the match overall. I fell fowl of this absurd rule in my first year, being awarded a half blue after Varsity despite beating five out of Oxford’s six runners. Thankfully this system has now been changed (Katy Hedgethorne succeeded in changing it in 2014 and then I got in changed again last term to take into account the increased size of the blues team) so that the criteria for a female full blue are the same as the male criteria. I in no way wish to devalue the full blues awarded to the men before this change – gaining a full blue is an exceptional achievement and it is the ladies criteria that has been changed to ,match the men’s not the other way around. I just wish to point out that the existence of a blatant inequality like this in 2013 was shocking to me but that CUHH have successfully removed this issue.

Cross country running is still not entirely equal – the ladies blues match is disproportionately short when compared to the men’s match. CUHH has been entirely behind me in my attempts to solve this by lengthening the course but the move has been blocked by our counterparts in Oxford. They wish to address the balance by shortening the men’s race and a solution has yet to be reached.

I have nothing but praise for CUHH when it comes to gender equality and fair attitudes, it is just a pity that my experience at university is not reflected nationwide.

See you next week!