Sharon ready for marathon challenge
Sharon Alikhani didn’t understand the point of marathons. To her mind, 26.2 miles was a “silly distance” that was hard on the body and could only end with lots of aches.
And then a good friend, Ayelet Shrem, came calling. She had signed up for the AACR Philadelphia Marathon and wanted someone to run with.
“For some reason I agreed,” Dr Alikhani laughed. “I do think a marathon is a crazy thing to do, but I needed a challenge. I need to stop saying, ‘I’ll never’.”
As a bonus, the race was a way to celebrate turning 50 this year and it gave her an opportunity to raise money for her employer, Pals.
Unfortunately for the palliative care physician, an injury took Ms Shrem out of contention. Although it means she is now running her first marathon on her own, her biggest concern is where the thermostat will sit on November 24.
“I am not someone who does very well in the cold. Philadelphia, at the end of November, could be extremely cold or, if it is mild, could be the perfect temperature for running.
“I have been to Philadelphia once, but only for a night so I don’t know it well. From people I have spoken to who have done it, they say the route is nice and flat.”
Dr Alikhani started running while living in London 15 years ago. Five months after her youngest son, Louis, was born, her goal was to get rid of the “baby podge”.
“My husband, Richard Hammond, always ran,” she said. “He entered a commemorative 10K for Chris Brasher, the gentleman who started the London Marathon and who died the year before. I thought that would be a good challenge to try and accomplish.”
Practising in Hyde Park, near her home, she quickly found she was not a natural.
“Running was a struggle for me because, basically, I did not like running,” she said.
“But what I didn’t really realise is that no one likes running when they start because running is hard. But if you run with very gradual increases in distance and pace and, most importantly, be consistent with running, it eventually gets better and easier to the point you might actually enjoy it.”
She completed that first race with her husband and felt “a huge sense of achievement afterwards”.
“It was a big race. There were thousands and thousands of people at this race so it was quite nerve-racking for me. It made me want to do more races, but I knew I had to actually run a bit more.”
Once in Bermuda, she signed up for the Partner Re 5K, which is held annually at the beginning of October.
“It is a horrible 5K,” Dr Alikhani said. “The route is really tough and it is hot and humid, but it is wonderful because it is just women. There is such camaraderie and solidarity. I was super, super nervous but it was a great first race to do.”
Eventually, her husband convinced her to run the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby with him.
“We trained together,” she said. “Then he got sick and said he wasn’t doing it the night before. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to do this on my own. But I did.”
Their sons, Rudi and Louis, got involved in the Clarien Iron Kids Triathlon races, which eventually inspired her to try one herself.
Dr Alikhani did her first, the SheROX Triathlon, in 2011.
“It was another female-only triathlon here in Bermuda,” she said.
“I just loved it. Running wasn’t a thing for me, but triathlons just clicked with me. I love the multi-sport aspect of it — the fact that you swim, cycle, run. You might not be a great swimmer or a great runner, but put the three together and you might find something in you that propels you. Triathlon is now a huge part of my life. I would never have imagined that first run in Hyde Park would have been the start of this.”
She considers her biggest achievement just waking up six days a week to train. She is generally out on the road by 5.30am.
“It is my therapy,” she said. “It is the reason I come to work and I can do what I do. Because I have worked in hospice care since 2008, now I see people who face challenges every single day, challenges we would never have imagined.”
To prepare for next month’s challenge she has been running about 60km each week. A single run on the weekend will span between 20km and 30km; midweek, the distance is shorter, between 10km and 20km. Twice a week, she also swims or cycles.
“I tend to have one rest day, usually Monday,” said Dr Alikhani, who joined Pals a year ago having previously worked at Agape House and as a GP.
She is happy to be able to donate whatever money she raises to the cancer charity’s Home Care Fund.
“In palliative care I think we are incredibly privileged that people let us into their lives at their most vulnerable,” she said.
“You really see people in the raw. It is a very challenging time for the patients themselves and their families. Just to be able to navigate them through that time — whether it is final years, months, days — is an incredibly special and rewarding job.
“The nature of what we do is sad, but at the same time, knowing that you have relieved some suffering or helped a family or individual is an incredibly rewarding thing to do.”
•To make a donation to Pals: 236-7257 or pals.bm
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