Gale-force winds, torrential rain, icy snow, thick mud and sunshine. I‘ve run through it all yet somehow still end a run with a smile (or possibly a grimace) on my face, endorphins flowing through my body and a sense of fulfilment that comes with pushing through a physical and mental challenge. Sometimes it’s difficult to put into words the appeal that running holds for me, but it is a question I get asked all the time. Why do you like running?
My passion for running began when I was 7. I was constantly trying to keep up with my older sisters, whatever sports they were doing, I wanted to join in. Of course, for my parents it was easier to take us all down to Wirral AC, the local athletics club. If we were all in one place at the same time they wouldn’t forget to pick one of us up, which is always a danger when trying to keep track of four children.
It was around this time that I was encouraged to start competing in the local primary school cross country races, despite my youth I always took every race very seriously and my unbeaten winning streak continued all the way through until year 6!
I continued to enjoy running and competing in age group events throughout secondary school competing in National championships, English Schools events and representing my county in cross country and track.
My desire to continue running alongside academics influenced my decision to study at Loughborough University, because of their world class sports facilities and fantastic coaching for the women’s middle-distance group.
I made great progress in my first semester at university, I had fantastic support from my coach and under his guidance started to incorporate strength and conditioning sessions in the gym to build up strength and reduce injury risk, as the force going through your feet when running can be up to 6 times your body weight!
This led to selection for my first junior England team for an international cross-country race held in Spain. This was an amazing opportunity to gain experience of how to navigate international races and adapt my normal competition routines to be able to perform under pressure.
However, my progress was never always linear, I faced a few challenges at university with illness and injury. As anyone who has been injured knows, cross training with another discipline like cycling or swimming just doesn’t quite hold the same appeal. So I always came back with a strong motivation to return to running helped by the great support system of athletes and my coach.
It was also at university when I really started to appreciate how running could affect my mood, it became an essential part of my routine to help me navigate the intense workload of coursework and exams. I found that nerves before an exam were eased during a relaxed chatty run and all coursework stress is forgotten during a tough interval session.
Having a strategy to be able to cope with stress was essential when we entered lockdown during my final semester, where I had to complete my dissertation at home, away from my usual university support system and academic supervisors. During this time running was the one constant in my life and although I had to adapt to training on my own, it was an essential stress reliever, and I looked forward to the mental break from staring at my laptop.
How flexibility supports my passion
After completing my degree, I joined the Schneider Electric Graduate Programme. My ambition has always been to develop my career alongside training and achieving my goals in running and I have definitely been able to do this throughout my time here.
The culture really fosters flexible working which has allowed me to find a good work-life balance throughout the Graduate Programme and ever since!
Having flexibility around my working hours enables me to fit in training twice a day, as I can head out for a quick run during lunchtime, or I can finish earlier one day and make it up on a rest day.
The freedom to manage my own time has also meant that I have been supported in getting involved with other projects to gain experience across the business via the Open Talent Market, which I have really enjoyed and has enabled me to continually develop my professional skills.
This flexibility has clearly worked for me, as I have had my most successful season to date, being selected for England again 5 years later as a Senior for two international competitions. In addition to finishing 2nd in the Northern Cross-country championships and 7th in the National XC championships at Parliament Hill. I’m excited to continue this journey with the support from Schneider and see what I can achieve.
My advice to you
To anyone who is reading this and is thinking about putting a pair of trainers on, just go for it. Any amount of time you can fit in to get outside for a run, jog or walk is rewarding. Set your own personal goals on what you want to achieve, it can be just for the mental health benefits, or it could be to get a parkrun personal best. It’s completely up to you!
Want to work for a company that supports work life balance, and driving your personal and professional goals?
Learn more about Graduate Programme and apply to join the #SEGreatPeople team! se.com/uk/careers
About the Author
Based in Warrington, Sophie Tarver is a BMS Tendering Engineer for North West End User projects.
She challenges the team to adapt to new digital tools and ways of working more efficiently.
A classical music lover she has been reviving her childhood passion for the piano by learning “La fille aux Chevaux de lin” by Debussy, one of her favourite pieces of music.