The Understudy

“I was walking with my husband on the high street and suddenly collapsed…”

There’s a whole lot of waiting going on

I learned the lines – but, as the Simulated Patient reserve, didn’t get the opportunity to say them!

The occasion was the mock sessions for exams junior doctors have to sit in order to become registrars.

So, as part of their assessment of their ability to carry out essential clinical skills, they get to meet – and diagnose – different “patients” in front of the examiners.

The idea rather reminded me of speed-dating, as you only have a few minutes for the candidates to come in and assess your case – although, unlike speed-dating, you do have to stick rigidly to the same case history!

Apps are available – but I learned my lines the old-fashioned way!

As we gathered in the waiting area, I asked the woman next to me if she’d learned her lines.

“I’ve been told I can’t say anything”.


She went on to tell me she’d had a kidney transplant, whereupon a man sitting opposite grinned and piped-up “So have I!”

The doctors are assessed mainly on their ability to diagnose “real-life” patients, shown here in a London hospital

Turned-out the vast majority of people in the room were real patients, with conditions the doctors would assess in a physical examination.

The designated Simulated Patients arrived, and the first of two sessions began.

I asked the organiser if the candidates would be able to tell who the genuine patients were and who was acting – but was just told  the SPs had to remain in character.

I guess they’d have a fair idea though!60497201

Another SP, Push (“It’s Pushvinder but call me Push”), was tasked with playing an asthmatic fireman who feared he’d lose his job because of his condition.

My  (unperformed) character, a 49-year-old computer technician, lost consciousness and collapsed in town, her husband unable to support her weight as she slumped to the ground – like me, she drinks too much wine, unlike me, she smokes 10 to 15 cigarettes a day and uses marajuana at weekends.

These – and other details – had to be remembered.

Decent reading material is essential!

Now, I haven’t had to learn lines since I was in the school play (Nicole the maid in Moliere’s “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”!) .

I did this the old-fashioned, time-honoured way by reading them then reciting back in my head, but felt I needed a bit of a prompt, so a Google search yielded support to a brain less retentive than that of a 10-year-old in the form of an App called Script Rehearser which I downloaded on my phone.

Alas, I wasn’t able to really get on with it – so resorted to recording the script on my Android then playing it back as I did things like making a cup  of coffee, putting my makeup on, etc.

Another SP, Nicola, a trained actor who regularly does a lot of amateur dramatics, also downloaded Script Rehearser but had no better luck than I had.

I didn’t get to have a go as a Simulated Patient on this occasion – I but I was told they were still grateful I was there as a standby.

In any case, I had no problems with sitting for hours reading a Jilly Cooper novel, eating too many free sandwiches – and getting paid for it!


Where’s That Duck?

This has got to be my happiest post since I started blogging.

A young runner honks the duck to mark a personal best

Yesterday I ran a ParkRun personal best.

Believe you me I thought I would never improve – but I smashed my last time by a minute!

The last time I visited ParkRun, a broken bone in my foot simply meant I was unable to run.

It was then, however, I learned for the first time that, when you run a personal best, you get to Honk The Duck!

Even once my recovery was sufficient for me to start running again, concerns about finishing near the back – or, God forbid, even last – kept me away from Hanley ParkRun since March. And that’s nearly a year ago.

At the start


Getting into the mind-set is everything – but I find this quote from John Bingham can help:

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

So, run I did.

ParkRun - duck honk
That’s him


Personally I really think the Guerrilla training really does help – particularly my least-favourite bit, the cardio!

The three-mile course does have quite a sharp hill right at the start, before you’re really into your stride.

Most times I immediately feel my lungs/heart protesting as the rest of the group surges ahead, but today that didn’t happen.


Real live ParkRun ducks!

Needless to say, the support you get on the way round from marshals and other runners is fantastic – and towards the end a guy I know came back for me, and accompanied me on the last section, before letting me sprint to the finish.

Any duck-honking traditionally happens when you’re still at the bandstand, before said duck is packed away along with all the other equipment.

However, that only really applies to those who have timed themselves, as opposed to people like me who wait to get the result texted to them. I want to be accurate!

Bryn’s daughter Millie was race director (here they are organising the data ready to send out)


By the time this happened I was sitting in the ParkRun “café” (a church hall), drinking tea and eating hot buttered toast!

Today my body gets a High Five from me for its ability to fully recover.

And it was a special day for the kids involved in ParkRun too – all the volunteer positions were manned by youngsters, who had an adult present where applicable.

Director of the Hanley event Bryn Holmes explained: “Well, we often have juniors that volunteer on a weekly basis so we decided to have juniors like the event director, all the way down to the marshals, the scanners – and even down to the ticket sorting-out…”

Poppy, seven, sorts out the tickets after the run


“Hopefully one of the event directors of the future would’ve been here today – you never know!”

He admitted it was mainly the idea of his 11-year-old daughter Millie, who, with another girl, got to be run director – addressing the 232 runners before they all set off.

She admitted: “Yes I was nervous, because it could’ve all gone wrong! It was fun, but kind of harder than I expected.”

You can find out more about Hanley ParkRun here.

Anonymous Running

“I’m slow. I know. Get used to it”.

Should a slow runner go undercover?

Trouble is – I can’t. 

When I did my first 10k (in Derby) I just knew a particular woman had “targeted” me to overtake. And in my second Robin Hood Half Marathon (Nottingham) I was almost ground down by the tapping behind me of a senior walker’s poles – just like the ticking of Captain Hook’s crocodile!

While I accept there’ll always be an element of competition when you’re in a race – and my challenge is not to finish last – it becomes even worse when you’re out running and minding your own business.

Me - Robin Hood 2010
I didn’t come last

It isn’t even always another runner – for some reason, I’ve had the odd man in his street clothes accidentally-on-purpose breaking into a run and overtaking me (on one occasion on a Nottingham towpath after taking an ostentatious drag of his cigarette). Like the presence a running woman is a threat to his virility?

Like, do I really need all this during what is often a coping strategy?

Suddenly you’re singled-out to be overtaken – and feel like a loser.

I have always been a bad loser!

So what gambits can I deploy to avoid this? Here are some:

  • Suddenly stopping to tie-up a perfectly tied shoelace
  • Abruptly remembering I have to check my mobile (however, I have yet to pretend I’m answering a call!)
  • Changing direction (not always possible)
  • Shock tactics – maybe sliding a hand down my leggings and scratching my groin/bum-crack (actually I haven’t tried this one yet)
  • Maybe I should get a T-shirt printed with a more pithy version of “For Christ’s sake yes I know I’m slow just b****r off!”
  • Simply yelling expletives at the offender (only the once, mind – as I did with the guy on the Nottingham towpath)

turtles-through-peanut-butter“Anonymous Running” is something I’m no stranger to – if only through covering my hair up with a baseball cap and hoping nobody will recognise me!

The cover of darkness is another option – but then of course I have to wear high vis clothing to ensure I don’t get run over, so I’m still conspicuous.  And I prefer daylight.

The great wilds of a remotely rural landscape are not a solution – I’m an urban runner through and through.

Maybe it’s my mental attitude that needs a work-out too?

After all, it takes a certain mind-set to always be a Good Sport.

Many thanks to IronFat and Hysterical Runner for inspiring this post. Rock on, sisters!