Local GP and Event Doctor Fiona Mosgrove reflects on her Illuminator experience and gives us the low down on why we all need to move more! Top tips on taking that first step.
Illuminating tales of a race doctor
The atmosphere at checkpoint 6 for the 2018 Illuminator event is not something I’ll forget in a hurry: Darkness is beginning to fall as the medical team arrive to set up. It’s cold enough to see your breath but dry and crisp; there’s a low hum of set up banter and the multicoloured light show is just beginning to cast the trees in spectacular light and shadow. The anticipation builds as race start time approaches, and almost before you know what’s happening the race is underway and the radio starts to light up with chatter. Before long the first few runners are through and then larger groups of runners come through together. The excited chatter gets louder with each wave of runners. The flash of phone cameras taking memento photos. The still quiet of the medical tent with the coffee pot bubbling in the background and the hiss of the radio static. It does not get better than this.
As a GP, runner and parkrun enthusiast I cannot say enough good things about exercise. We could certainly all do with moving more for a start! The benefits of exercise are well evidenced. It will almost always be at the top of the list of things you can do to improve your health. Walking has clear benefits for improving both physical and mental health, as does running. Amongst these is a lowering of blood pressure, an improvement in diabetes control and smaller chances of developing diabetes, improved memory and mood, better sleeping – the list is almost endless. And – other than some decent footwear it doesn’t require a lot of kit and it doesn’t cost the earth. Just get some shoes on and get out there; it’s just one foot in front of the other. If I could prescribe one thing for all of my patients, exercise would be it, regardless of underlying state of health.
‘But how do you motivate yourself to get moving?’ I hear you ask ... And that’s where committing to an event like the Illuminator can really help you stay motivated long term. This unique night trail run gives ample opportunity for challenging yourself to start getting moving. With the new combination of 3 distances (8km, 15km and 15 miles) there is something for everyone. Walkers can tackle the shorter two distances and runners are able to select any of the three routes. Signing up for the Illuminator several months in advance gives time to identify a sensible, achievable training plan and to set it in motion. It also gives you time to get your friends involved; peer support is crucial in keeping you motivated. Even dramatic lifestyle changes start with one tiny step, and signing up to the Illuminator and getting those walking boots on is what you need to do.
I have been a fair-weather runner for several years and stopped going out regularly whilst I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now three and a half. I started running again, more regularly, in February this year just as we started Crathes Castle parkrun. I am extremely fortunate to be the Event Director at Crathes Castle parkrun, and committing to running regularly has been nothing short of a revelation for me in terms of fitness, stress relief and general health. I now run 3 or 4 times a week and will admit that I am a bit of a running junkie. My times are improving steadily, and I am learning how to push myself a little bit harder and that I can manage a lot more than I thought I could. I have strengthened existing friendships and made lots of new ones through running regularly. Anyone can do this – you just have to get out there and give it a go.
The variety of the Illuminator night trail race makes it very accessible, and because it is well planned by a wonderful team with a clear focus, it is also extremely safe. Following the race guidelines on mandatory and recommended kit is essential to help you have an enjoyable and safe race. Make sure that you have all the kit you need and that it is in good condition, and make yourself familiar with your head torch and shoes well before event night. It can be really difficult to tell what the weather is going to do but you can be reasonably certain it will be cold overnight in Scotland in October! When and if you stop it is likely that you will get cold very quickly. Make sure you have extra layers and some food to cover any such circumstances. The course marshals are experienced and knowledgeable. The support team have communication links with one another so, if you feel you are struggling or need support, just speak to your marshals – don’t be shy, they are there to help!
There are always a million reasons not to do something – there’s no time, it’s too difficult to fit in, my knees are dodgy, it’s awfully far, I’m not a walker/runner – and on the list goes. The thing is: you can do it … you just need to decide that you want to and make it a priority. Get some shoes, grab your friends and get out there.
I’ll be soaking up the fantastic atmosphere at Checkpoint 6 again this year – come and say hello on your way past!!
See you out there!