Stroke rehabilitation specialist, Kirsty Price, relied on exercise to get her through one of the most challenging stages of her career during the pandemic. On Sunday 25 September, she’ll be wearing her England vest for the first time after qualifying for an England Athletics Masters place at this year’s Great Bristol Run.
“I work in a small team and our services are heavily relied on by stroke patients,” explains Kirsty.
“People carried on having strokes throughout the pandemic, but they weren’t able to access the services they’d usually rely on, so they were really anxious about that, as well as the fear of catching Covid. And we had to become a telephone service during the first lockdown, which I hated because I need to see my patients face-to-face. As soon as we had the PPE we needed, I couldn’t wait to get out there and start visiting patients again.”
Kirsty describes her job as “highly emotional” and, while she enjoys her career, she often finds it hard to switch off after a day at work.
“After experiencing a stroke, people’s lives can change dramatically and, understandably, there’s a lot of emotion involved. It’s hard not to come home feeling drained and the temptation is to sit down all evening, but exercise is my way of coping with everything I’m dealing with at work.”
Before the pandemic, Kirsty enjoyed swimming, but had to switch her exercise routine when her local pool closed.
“My husband is an experienced duathlete and he has an exercise bike at home. During lockdown he bought me one too and we also starting running together much more. I really enjoyed that when there wasn’t much else I could do and it really helped me deal with the emotional aspects of my job.
“These days, running is a big part of our lives. Even when we’re on holiday, my husband will create routes for us to run together!”
Running on a new level
After turning 50 in December last year, Kirsty decided to take her love of running further by aiming for a place in the 50-55 England Athletics Masters group for 10k.
England Athletics is the not-for-profit membership and development body for grassroots athletics and running in England. Its Masters programme offers affiliated runners aged 35+ an annual rolling programme of opportunities to compete at 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon distances.
To qualify, Kirsty had to complete a 10k race in a top three position for her age group, which she did successfully earlier this year.
“I have Reynaud’s disease, which means I get difficulties with my circulation during cold weather and my qualifying race was on a particularly cold day,” says Kirsty. “I wasn’t able to feel my hands or feet and had to wear lots of layers at the start line, but luckily my husband was able to carry all the extra clothes I shed as I warmed up throughout the race!”
Kirsty was very excited when she received the email to confirm her qualification and feels “incredibly proud” to be wearing her England vest for the Great Bristol Run.
“It’s such an honour to be running for the country and I still can’t quite believe it!”
A coping mechanism
Kirsty relies on her husband as a source of motivation and encouragement and has learned to be disciplined to fit in her training sessions around work.
“Sometimes it’s hard to know when patient visits are going to finish, but I look at my work diary each week and try to find out when I can fit my training in. I usually train around five or six days a week, which tends to be either running or indoor biking, plus I try to do some sessions in our small home gym.
“Some days I’m so tired after work, but I know I have to dig deep and carry on. I tend to train as soon as I get home – before I can get distracted with anything else.
“Exercise is my way of coping with the stress of work, so I know that if I don’t do it, I’ll lose that coping mechanism. It gives me something to focus on and keeps everything in check.”
Based in Shropshire, Kirsty will be visiting Bristol for the first time to take part in the race.
“I’m looking forward to seeing a new city! I’ll be really nervous when the race starts, but I’m so excited.
“I would love to complete the 10k in less than 43 minutes, which would beat my PB, but I also really want to enjoy it in case I never get to take part in a representative race again.”
The Great Bristol Run 10k starts in the city centre and takes runners past the vibrant waterfront, before crossing on to Spike Island, through Wapping Wharf and looping round the beautiful Queen Square at the half-way point. Runners then cross over into Redcliffe before rounding the historical Castle Park on a final section through Old City, before the grandstand finish on Anchor Road.
This year, runners can look forward to a live start line DJ, pumping out a high energy set to help them find their groove for the challenge ahead.
And for the first time, an Après Run zone in Millennium Square will feature more great music, as well as food and drink stalls, ensuring the celebrations continue long past the finish line.
Entries for the Great Bristol Run 10k, Half Marathon and Family Mile which tale place on Sunday 25 September are now open at greatrun.org/Bristol.