Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Doctor's Orders


Life as an international marathon runner can be busy enough yet Rebecca Robinson’s daily routine impressively also includes juggling work as a full-time medical registrar with part-time Masters’ education, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 28-year-old distance runner’s exhausting lifestyle is testament to her recent breakthrough in the toughest of all traditional athletic events.

For the dedication and strong mental aptitude that she applies day in day out, propelled the Kendal AC athlete to register the fifth-fastest time on the British rankings last year courtesy of her 26.2 mile debut alone last spring.

The event was the 2010 Virgin London marathon back in April and Robinson flew to an eye-catching 2:37.14 clocking, placing fourth Briton along the way.

The performance earned her selection for another debut – her first major international championship, in the European championship marathon in Barcelona last July – where, for Team GB, Robinson finished a respectable 24th and helped the squad to collect team bronze in the process.

“Competing in a European championship was a dream-come-true and so inspiring,” Robinson explained.

Physically it's been a tough year, as the marathon will always find your weakest links, but nothing compared to how much I've enjoyed the experiences and want to keep building on them now.”


Based in Sheffield for her role in Sports and Exercise Medicine, Robinson regularly travels to Nottingham and Leeds for her studies and mostly trains alone in her quest for athletic perfection.

Evidently a strong academic, Robinson used to work 80-hour weeks as a junior doctor but has since found an easier work-life balance in order to progress in her running endeavours:

“My hours have been a little more 'normal' (of late) but I'm doing a Masters in sports medicine, so it's busy as usual,” Robinson revealed.

Her average day would include a morning run before an eight-hour day then a second bout of training, but some days will alternate with university seminars and meetings across the north-west, with a sports clinic, meeting or conference thrown in too for good measure.

“I've less on-call commitments during the weekends and evenings so a long run or a race is easier to fit in,” Robinson explained.

“My employers are very supportive; it helps they're involved with athletes, too; because mostly as a junior doctor the pressure of work came first, as I learnt trying to prepare for Barcelona.

My role is actually a lot to do with trying to improve the health of people with chronic illness like heart disease, through exercise.

And of course, many can't aspire to run or become athletes, so it's challenging but inspiring. I will become involved with athletics clinics over the next year, too.”


Questioned on whether she felt it necessary to become a full-time athlete in order to ‘make it to the top’, Robinson revealed:

“I think it's different for each athlete. On one hand, modern athletics is a serious career-demanding application. I think it just depends on trying to full-fill your potential and balancing everything else in life.

I definitely want to work in medicine long term, but would rather see how far I can go with athletics while I can, as it is time-limited - although with the marathon, hopefully I've some years to develop yet!”

Having registered a lifetime best of 54:52 (for 10-miles) and placing fourth Briton in the Bupa Great North Run last autumn, Robinson indeed enjoyed a stellar 2010 campaign despite it being amidst adversity:

“In terms of training, it's been tougher than I thought getting back from two marathons, but races have been going better and I'm enjoying it,” Robinson explained.

“It's been bittersweet though, as two great friends who believed in me much more than I did - coach Norman Matthews and my aunt, Julie, passed away last autumn.”

Using their memory to inspire her onto fine performances, Robinson now has her eyes firmly set on the year ahead as she moves into her second season as a marathoner – and who knows, judging by her potential and spirit, perhaps even a spot on the 2012 Olympic squad.

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