I’ve been tweeting for six years, enjoying the banter with others and then suddenly, bam, up pops Nat aka ThisVetRuns. From her first tweet in April 2018 she had me captivated with her honesty, quality blog writing and I admit, the occasional cute photo of her dog and random kittens from her work! It’s been wonderful to follow her return to running after a miscarriage and see her progress in her goals. I love her attitude and I was really happy that she agreed to take part in this Active Women Interview Series.
Tell us a bit about yourself Nat …
I’m Nat, I’m 26 and I am a small animal emergency vet based in Nottingham. I have been an enthusiastic but total amateur runner for about four years now. I started my blog This Vet Runs after suffering a miscarriage shortly before the London Marathon. This was a period in my life where I felt my body had really let me down; running was the only thing that helped me to feel proud of my body again, and all the amazing things it can achieve. I am passionate about encouraging and supporting other women to find the confidence to get active, as I know first-hand how life-changing it can be.
When did you decide to start exercising regularly and why was that?
Throughout my childhood I was always very active, and I never had to try to stay fit. However, half-way through vet school I realised I hadn’t done any exercise at all for a few years and suddenly found myself pretty unfit (and a bit squidgy)! Honestly, I only started running as a procrastination whilst revising for my exams, but it quickly became a lot more than that. Through my stressful final years of vet school, and the challenging first few years in practice, running has become a vital part of my well-being – both physically and mentally. In fact, running is probably the first positive coping mechanism I’ve had; it makes me the best version of me I can be.
What activities have you tried and what’s your favourite?
I love lots of different activities! I am not very good at any of them, so I enjoy mixing it up with whatever feels right at the time, from strength training to cycling, running, swimming, and an occasional triathlon to very bad yoga, spin classes, HIIT sessions, or simply walking my dog in the countryside.
However, my heart has to be with running. There is a wonderful simplicity to running: we all learn to run as toddlers and anybody can do it, any time, any place – no fancy equipment required, just a pair of trainers. For me, the magic of running is that it can be anything I need it to be that day. It can be alone-time or sociable, fast or slow, indoors or outdoors, hard or easy. Some days it is stress-relief and relaxation, other days it’s my challenge – and this can be relaxing in a different kind of way. I work long hours, and they are often stressful and high pressure; running is my space away from this and a way to push myself and have goals that are not academic or work-related. It helps me have an identity away from my job, which is really important.
As serious as all that is, I have lots of fun with my running! This year I’ve done races, joined clubs, gone fell running and even done track sessions. There’s so many ways to get involved.
What has been the biggest barrier you’ve had to overcome in your fitness journey?
I’m sure this is a really common one, but the biggest barrier for me is definitely time. I know what I need to do to improve my running, but there just aren’t enough days in the week. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and one of the things I love about running is that I’m genuinely not very good at it! I’ll never ever be competitive, and so it really is something I do for me, and that is such a release. I have to remind myself of this if I start to find it a pressure fitting training in or worrying that I’m not doing well enough.
Have you had any negative comments and how have you dealt with them?
I have to admit I have hardly ever received any negativity. Almost everyone I meet is incredibly supportive, whether they are amateurs or professionals. I once got lapped in a 10 mile race by a group of elite athletes, and every single one of them told me that I was doing great as they passed me! I usually find if you are positive and encouraging to others, that they will be positive and encouraging to you. There is an amazing community out there, particularly for women.
What goals have you set and have you reached any of them yet?
My first ever goal was to run 5km in less than 30 minutes, I couldn’t believe it when I achieved it at my first ever parkrun. Since then I’ve come a long way and my biggest goal to date was running my first marathon, which I finally achieved a few weeks ago at the Yorkshire Marathon. That was a huge personal achievement for me, as I had to drop out of the London Marathon after my miscarriage. I did my whole training again from scratch, and each of those miles, particularly the final 26.2, helped me recover and remember how proud I am of my body and all the amazing things it can do. Next up for me is my deferred charity place at the London Marathon 2019, continuing my fundraising for the Guide Dog’s Association.
What benefits has being active brought you?
It’s hard to describe quite how much better being active makes me feel, but the best word I can find is empowering. When life is going well it gives me fun, challenge, and lots of exciting opportunities; when life gets tough it is my stress relief, my time-out and my coping mechanism. Being active has given me a new confidence that I take with me into every sphere of my life, both personally and professionally. I’ve learnt not to put limits on what I might be able to achieve, and not just in sport. It’s crazy something as simple as exercise can change you so much as a person – I’m happier and more confident than I’ve ever been.
What advice would you give to other women who want to start exercising?
Don’t be afraid. This is an amazing time to be a woman who wants to get active, and there are so many ways to get started. Immerse yourself in the community, be it through joining a group or just getting involved online. Setting yourself a challenge can be a great motivator, but make sure you celebrate all the little achievements along the way. The best thing about being a beginner is that you have a new achievement almost every single time you go out- whether it’s running continuously for five minutes or doing a whole length in front crawl. It’s the most exciting stage, I have to work much harder now to achieve new things! Make the decision to do something amazing for you – don’t let fear or embarrassment hold you back, I promise that you won’t regret it.