Sunday, 11 August 2019


Whilst this title sounds dramatic, I’m someone who enjoys ultra-marathons…if you’re looking at studying dietetics, please don’t let this put you off. Placement is a huge part of the degree that helps you develop and put your knowledge into practice, and is a fantastic experience. I just couldn’t help but find a few comparisons, so here are my musings…

1.    All the gear and no idea...okay, some idea. I often feel like a rookie when I turn up to ultras and never really feel like I truly know what I’m doing, a bit like imposter syndrome I suppose. I felt very similar during week 1 of placement, arriving in my tunic, with my pocket calculator and requirements booklet in hand…I felt quite scared and had no idea what laid ahead of me. Truth is, you never will. We can’t predict the future, but with repeated exposure and practice we can learn along the way.
2.    Having a support crew. In an ultra, if Dom or a friend can’t make it to the race then I always ensure I can at least phone them. Just knowing I can talk with someone when things are going wrong or getting tough, or equally when I’m feeling good…It’s always great to have that support.
3.     Regular snacking will help get you through. Just like with any endurance event, you are burning through energy and need to keep refuelling to keep on top of that energy. Well on placement you are constantly learning, and I found my brain would often feel fatigued at the end of a shift. Regular snacks may not be feasible when you’re on the wards, but ensuring you have good meals to get you through certainly helps (as does the odd homemade flapjack my colleagues would sometimes bring in)
4.    The community around you is pretty awesome! I personally find the running community to be incredibly helpful and inspirational, and I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a fantastic team of supportive dietitians’ on my placement. I learnt a lot from them, just like I do with you guys with running!
5.     Pit stops – during an ultra, you may visit numerous pit stops to refuel and perhaps rest for a while. During placement, your weekends are your pit stops. This is your opportunity to revive yourself, take a bit of a break and perhaps reflect on your week.
6.    You can train all you want, but there will be some situations you just can’t prepare for. Just like in a race, some things are out of your control. You can study and research everything under the sun…but you will still face new situations which text-books can’t prepare you for.
7.     You will reach a point where you're not sure you can finish. Fatigue sets in, perhaps it feels like you’re not making any progress and you just cannot picture that finish line. FYI this is when your support crew comes in handy ;)
8.    Equally, you will reach a point when you realise you can and will finish. Similar to the final 2 miles of a race, the final 2 weeks of placement you discover new energy. Sure, you’re tired, but something carries you through and you give it all you’ve got for that final push!
9.    The finish feels extremely rewarding – you have been on a journey, a journey where you have probably learnt a lot about yourself. You may not get a medal at the end of placement but just the feeling of passing feels great and you know that your hard work paid off.
10. There is always more to learn – I feel with every race I learn something new. On placement, this was daily. Even after 12 weeks, although I feel I have developed professionally and personally, we are forever learning. Knowledge has a beginning but no end.

I could have probably written another 10 comparisons… Placement was definitely challenging, but in a brilliant way (much like an ultra-marathon). I decided to take on 2 ultras within the first 6 weeks of placement and have had a wedding to plan, so whilst I felt incredibly busy, it has gone so fast and I’m actually going to miss it. Nevertheless, I’m ready for a summer break (and to get married!) to come back fresh and ready for the final year!

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