Hey! We’re Zoe and Emily. We met while studying for our undergrads at the Uni of Oxford and quickly became close friends. We love having a natter, going out together, and supporting the arts. It was only later on that we realised we were both drawn to running (on occasion!) and started attending Parkrun together, where we revelled in a joyous sense of community. As one does when they surmount the mighty 5km, we soon set our sights on running a half marathon - and then we doubled our aspirations, deciding that we would run not one, but two half marathons, less than 5 months apart!
Training for our first half marathon over a very hot and cold summer in the UK has proven both challenging and exhilarating. Between us we have faced high heat and humidity, huge inclines, falls, injuries, bouts of illness, and the cumulative fatigue of showing up each day, even when we didn’t feel like it. Completing the Oxford Half on October 15th will be a momentous achievement for us both, having never run that far in our lives! But the discipline required to maintain training alongside our intensive Masters degrees at Oxford and Cambridge so that we may complete our second half marathon - the Cambridge Half - on March 3rd perhaps represents an even greater challenge. However, it is one that we are both keen to overcome because of the many benefits of physical exercise for emotional wellbeing and the causes that drive us: The Lullaby Trust and Fibromyalgia Action UK. You can find out more about our motivations below and what your support can do!
What do Fibromyalgia Action UK do, and why are we running for them?
Hi! It’s Zoe speaking. I have chosen to run for Fibromyalgia Action UK (FMA UK) in memory of my dear Nan who experienced the often-crippling consequences of fibromyalgia for at least a quarter of her life. For those who are not familiar with the condition, fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition which is widely understood to be irreversible. While the symptoms can wax and wane and vary from person to person, fibromyalgia is typically associated with muscle stiffness and tenderness, persistent fatigue, and sleep disturbance. The onset can be traumatic, but in my Nan’s case, her symptoms developed gradually and worsened over time. Some days she could hardly move at all and struggled to complete daily tasks because of the excruciating pain and exhaustion that she experienced.
I think one of the biggest challenges that she faced was a lack of awareness and understanding about the level of pain she had to endure each day and the impact it was having on all aspects of her life. She could often be dismissed as exaggerating or moaning about her problems, when sometimes it was a battle for her just getting out of bed and making it through the day - especially as someone living alone with a number of other health issues that she needed to manage. Certainly, there is a huge amount of stigma around chronic pain in general and other ‘invisible’ disabilities which are difficult for many people to perceive. This may ultimately have fed into her reluctance to ask for or accept help, but with your support in aid of FMA UK, I wish to buck this trend.
FMA UK is a brilliant charity which is helping to ensure that people living with fibromyalgia are better understood, never feel alone in their experiences, and can access all the support they need to continue doing the things they love with the people they love. Your sponsorship will help to fund life-enhancing services such as their national helpline, local support groups, online forums, and information booklets for those affected by fibromyalgia as well as healthcare professionals.
In December 2021, I sustained multiple neck fractures while skiing in the Alps and have been working hard to recover my full strength and mobility ever since - running has played a major part in that. My Nan’s life experiences made her extremely compassionate which makes me relieved that she never had to hear about my accident because I can only imagine the emotional toll it would have had on her. The reason I mention this is because I have never felt more connected to my Nan than during my rehabilitation. The overwhelming pain like knives in my skin, the sleepless nights and all the anxiety, the difficulty walking and completing daily tasks, the hating feeling dependent on others and not wanting to be a burden, the feeling trapped in my home and frustrated by the limits of my body. I am lucky that my pain was only ever temporary and have felt strengthened by my Nan’s resolve every step of the way. She is my hero. I’m doing this for her and others in a similar position.
What do the Lullaby Trust do, and why are we running for them?
Heya, Emily here! I am running for the Lullaby Trust. The Lullaby Trust provides support for families affected by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as well as investing in SIDS research. They support more than 800 bereaved families every year and the rate of SIDS have reduced by 83% since the charity was formed in 1991. It is obvious the positive impact that has been generated by increasing SIDS visibility and awareness. So much information that we think is common sense now, such as babies sleeping on their backs or the risks of co-sleeping came from research funded by the Lullaby Trust.
I am running for the Lullaby Trust, however, in recognition of the support they provided my parents when they lost Ben and when my brothers and I were born. On September 3rd 2000 Ben was born, at 36 hours old he passed away and it was never really clear why. The Lullaby Trust offered immediate bereavement support and counselling for my parents but one of the most influential things the charity runs is the Care of Next Infant (CONI) programme which supports parents if they go on to have other children, as you can only imagine how terrifying that must be. James, Oli, and I were all CONI babies; my mum had more regular checkups while she was pregnant as well as us once we were born and the reassurance was invaluable. The psychological impact of having children after a bereavement is immense but some of the simplest things can make a big difference: we all wore 'movement monitors' that ticked everytime we took a breath meaning my mum could turn her back for 30 seconds, make a cuppa tea, and know we were okay. So much of the support the charity provide is about providing reassurance and removing the sense of isolation for families whether that be through CONI or the community that they create.
The Lullaby Trust is an amazing cause and the money we raise will go toward continuing life-saving research and supporting families that are affected by SIDS. Bereavement at any stage in life is something that never leaves you but the support the Lullaby Trust provides makes it easier to move forward.