Meet Sammi!

I started my science career when I studied for a BSc(Hons) in Biology at the University of Manchester. Not really knowing what to do next but based on an interest in the Reproductive Sciences modules, I applied to do a masters of research (MRes) in Maternal and Fetal Health Research based in St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester. Here I worked on a project investigating why teenagers are more likely to have small babies in both a lab and a clinical setting and learnt so much in one year, including that I really liked research and I wasn’t all bad at it!

After passing me MRes with distinction, I applied for a PhD in the same department with Dr Rebecca Jones and Dr Alexander Heazell. For the next four years I set up a prospective clinical study investigating why mothers over the aged of 35 years (classified as advanced maternal age) were more likely to suffer from stillbirths. During this time I had the pleasure of working quite closely with mothers throughout their pregnancies, all of whom were so altruistic giving up their time and donating samples to research with no benefit of their own but purely so that research may be conducted to help mothers in the future have happier and healthy pregnancies.

I completed my PhD at the end of 2015 I am now working with Dr Alexander Heazell and Dr Kathy Hentges investigating if undiagnosed cardiac defects in babies could be a possible explanation for some unexplained stillbirths. I know that my research interests will always remain in trying to understand more about specific causes of stillbirth so that we might learn how they can be prevented.

The Fundraiser

I have been a runner for a number of years, but I use the word runner in the loosest sense and have very much suffered from imposter syndrome when faced with a “real” runner. Running has been a past time that I enjoy but mostly to the end that it relieves the guilt of eating an entire bar of chocolate, or getting a takeaway at the weekend as well as minimising the consequences to my waistline. Running very long distance has never really been something that has appealed to me! However, both of my brother and sister have now done marathons which has sparked my sibling rivalry and, I must admit, watching my brother victoriously cross the finish line actually made me feel almost envious. As a result I have somehow ended up signing up to the infamous 26 miles in Manchester this April. In order to get myself out the door to train, I decided to run to raise money for a cause that is close to my heart. For the last 6 years I have worked as a scientist investigating pregnancy complications at St Mary’s Hospital as a member of the Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre and for the last 5 I have been focused on research to further understanding and help prevent stillbirth with Dr Alexander Heazell. During this time preventing such a tragic pregnancy outcome as stillbirth has become an ambition of mine and will continue to be a focus of my research. I can think of no worthier cause to pound pavement for 4 hours. I really don’t know how much I will raise, but I just hope to raise as much as I can.

The Holly Stillbi

I chose to run for Holly Martin Stillbirth Research Fund for several reasons. Firstly, they raise money for such a deserving cause, and one for which any advancement requires the funds to do research. Secondly, the Holly Martin Stillbirth Research Fund has raised money to support Dr. Heazell in his research endeavours and I would therefore love to return this support by doing what I can to help raise money. And thirdly, I feel admiration towards a family run charity for having such a close personal connection to the cause and using their experience to help save others from enduring such a loss.

3) Tell me about how you're preparing? (Bit about if you've run them in the past, training schedule maybe, a fairly long paragraph about what you are doing for it)

I have never run a marathon before, although I have done a couple of halfs, but several years ago now! I do remember thinking at the end of them” if someone told me now that I had to do all that again, I would probably cause them physical pain”. Turns out that someone is in fact me and the physical pain is called training. I knew I needed help maintaining the motivation to keep up a 16 weeks training programme, so I joined a running club! I found a group of people training for a marathon, many of whom it will also be their first, and finding some company for 15+ mile run is really a life saver. I have found myself in a completely new world of running. I have a weekly running chart taped to my wall that tells me I have to run 5-6 times a week and includes 5 different types of run. Who knew there were that many different ways to run?! It turns out that there is in fact more to long distance running than putting one foot in front of the other at pace for an extended period

of time. There is interval/hill training, threshold running, race pace running and recovery run running. Each has its purpose and each seems to be incredibly important. I have ran a hilly half in Wales at the beginning of December and have another in March to make sure I stay on track. I have invested in a running watch that tells me all sorts of clever data about my runs and, as a scientist, I really get overly excited about the stats and graphs this thing generates! There is also the case of fuelling. When you run for over 2 hours eating a big bowl of pasta the night before just doesn’t cut it. There are energy gels and jelly babies and electrolyte replacing drinks. I will rarely leave the house on a long run without a few Haribo’s squirrelled away about my person. I am finding myself not planning my runs about my day but planning my day around my runs. It’s a whole new way of thinking!

of time. There is interval/hill training, threshold running, race pace running and recovery run running. Each has its purpose and each seems to be incredibly important. I have ran a hilly half in Wales at the beginning of December and have another in March to make sure I stay on track. I have invested in a running watch that tells me all sorts of clever data about my runs and, as a scientist, I really get overly excited about the stats and graphs this thing generates! There is also the case of fuelling. When you run for over 2 hours eating a big bowl of pasta the night before just doesn’t cut it. There are energy gels and jelly babies and electrolyte replacing drinks. I will rarely leave the house on a long run without a few Haribo’s squirrelled away about my person. I am finding myself not planning my runs about my day but planning my day around my runs. It’s a whole new way of thinking!

1) What are you most looking forward to for this event?

There are two things I am most looking forward to about this marathon. Firstly, the, undoubtedly, indescribably sense of exhaustion, relief and achievement from crossing that finish line after a gruelling 26 miles. And a close second, the epic meal I plan to consume afterwards, utterly guilt free.

2) What is the biggest challenge for this event? (fundraising? Training? biggest apprehension?)

I have given myself the target of finishing in under 4 hours. How achievable this is in my mind alters on a daily basis. I really hope that I make it. But time aside, I am most apprehensive about injury. I have already had my fair share of blisters and achy muscles, but my biggest fear is that I might incur an injury that will inhibit or prevent my training and/or the race. I would hate to let anyone down.


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