My name is Barbora and I’m in year 12, studying Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Spanish. On the 8th of March, I will be running the Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon, in aid of Cancer Research UK. The mountain of support from family, friends, and school especially, has been tremendous, and I have exceeded my goal of raising £500. I am hoping to run the 21.1km in under 1 hour and 50 minutes, since I ran my first half marathon back in September 2019 and I would love to beat my time by more than 5 minutes.

Believe it or not, I was not always this crazy! Although I was quite active as a child, playing tennis weekly and swimming for a club twice a week, I hated running with a passion. Whenever the occasional torture of cross country came up in PE, I would hide behind a hedge along the way, and conveniently re-join my classmates a good 10 minutes later.

In year 9, I decided to join the cross-country team. Was I the slowest member of the team? Yes. But was I determined to get better? Also, yes. That year, and for the next 2 years, I did 3 early morning training sessions every week: one for swimming and two for running, and my fitness (and lack of sleep) grew dramatically. I was also developing my stamina in 2.2km open sea swimming races, so in the summer of year 10, I felt ready to start running on my own. I went from 5km, to 10km to 15km and then finally on one really hot day, 20km! I felt brilliant (and really sore). All this long-distance training also helped with athletics, and I won my first 1500m on sports day, cheered on by my amazing friends (credits to Aleena for being especially loud that day).

Then year 11 came. I gave up my running early mornings, and chose to run long distances at the weekends instead, with shorter distances during the week in the school gym. I can genuinely say that running helped me enormously with the stress of school and exams. Not only does it release endorphins to boost your mood, and make you more productive, it also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps moderate the brain’s response to stress. Moreover, if its sunny outside (let’s be honest- it’s probably not), a run helps your body produce vitamin D, which can lesson your likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. In between my GCSE exams, I always went for a run on the field, which helped me to focus more when I went back into that scary room.

That summer, I ran in a mountain trail race, on the island of Vis in Croatia. I came sixth overall and I was the second female (aiming for first this year!). This helped me to prepare for my first half marathon in September. I was the youngest participant and achieved a time of 1 hour and 54 minutes. Having gained this confidence, I signed up for a charity place in the Cambridge half marathon on the 8th of March, and have been using Sunday mornings to run as far as I can. I can’t wait to run for a cause, which has grown especially close to my heart in the last few days, as I found out that my wonderful grandfather has prostate cancer.

My biggest inspiration is definitely my brother. From his first charity cycle from London to Nice when he was 16, to the half Iron Man which he will complete in August, he’s taught me to sign up and go for it. He’ll be in Cambridge too! One day, I hope to run a marathon, but I still have some work to do.

Cancer is a disease that affects all of us in one way or another. In the UK alone, around 1000 new cases are diagnosed each day. It’s never too late to donate, and if you’d like to, my JustGiving page is:  https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/barboras-giving-page-1

Thank you!

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