International aims are a walk in the park for Rebecca Moore
Modest targets for talented athlete
Imagine an international athlete who has no coach, trains on a treadmill, has grand ambitions on the parkrun circuit and is also studying to become a doctor.
Sounds quite far-fetched, does it not? After all, we are used to the image of a coach with stopwatch in hand presiding over a runner pounding the track or heading out on the road, with the athlete leading a jet-setting life to races around the globe and downtime spent with a sports therapist.
So you could say that Rebecca Moore is the antithesis to the norm, and if you want any further proof of that then it may come by the fact that her dreams are not of the Olympics, but a much more modest target.
“One of my ambitions is to get as many parkrun records as possible,” says 25-year-old Moore. “I’m touring the country so that’s quite fun.
“I think I’ve got about seven or eight records, maybe even 10 – but that is my ambition, a bit of parkrun tourism.
“Whenever we go on holiday, my parents always like to leave really early so we can get there for a parkrun.”
It may sound strange to say it, but the parkrun target may perfectly reflect Moore’s personality.
The 5km events have become very popular around the world as they are achievable for many runners, not the sole virtue of the elite, and that seems in fitting with Moore’s amiable nature.
But the talk of those modest dreams also hide the talent of the distance runner.
Moore started the year in fine fashion by representing England in the West Indies, finishing third in the Bermuda 10K and, a day later, second in the Bermuda Half Marathon.
It was not her first appearance for the country either, that came in 2016 when she ran for England in the Great Ireland Run.
International aspirations were not a long-term aim though; it was something that became achievable after significant development in a relatively short space of time.
The improvements coincided with Moore coming to study medicine at Cambridge, so the location of the medical study room high up in St Catharine’s College is the ideal location to talk all things education and athletics.
Moore was initially a swimmer but began running as a teenager when the swimming club started doing multi-sport events, and it soon became a family hobby.
“I never really took it massively seriously, I just enjoyed it as a bit of an aside,” she said.
“When I started at Cambridge, I began improving quite a lot just purely by realising that I was perhaps suited to longer distances and then training a bit more.
“I started taking it a bit more seriously when I got here, and then I won Cuppers in my first term so I did Varsity in that year, in 2011.”
But you would say that Moore’s approach to training is certainly a bit more unconventional.
Take, for instance, where she does the majority of her running.
“It’s a little bit unorthodox but most of my training is on the treadmill and people are a bit surprised,” she said.
“It’s because a) I’m a bit of a fair-weather trainer and b) I find it really efficient. I can just get on there and train for an hour and it saves quite a lot of time and you can’t really turn it down.
“It’s quite difficult to motivate yourself to do it, but I’m a bit of a convert to treadmill running and not many people agree with me, but it works well for me.”
What also works well for Moore is how she organises her training – without the input of a coach, which in itself is a break from the norm in the structured sporting world in which we live.
“I just coach myself,” she said. “When I was at the running club before, you get a vague idea of what the general routine is but I tend to just try to follow a fairly sensible plan – a couple of long runs a week, a couple of sessions and then some weights in the gym.
“And I do quite a lot of spinning as well because I think the cross training is quite good for preventing injuries.”
But the academia and running have proved to be a match made in heaven for Moore, as the medical studies have taught her how to manage time and be self-motivated.
And that motivation then carries forward into her running, with training sometimes being a welcome distraction.
“When it’s pure studying, it’s not too bad,” said Moore. “It’s actually just a nice break. But being in the hospital all day is quite challenging, especially if you’ve been on your feet in theatres because the last thing you feel like doing is going for a run.
“After a full day, your legs just feel so heavy so I tend to just get up early and train.
“It’s quite challenging but I think being quite about it is quite good. I have a few sessions that I do that are intervals that don’t take a massive amount of time but they’re quite hard.
“It means that I can get quite a lot done in a short amount of time and then I save the longer runs for the weekend.
“There are a surprising number of medics that are athletes because I think you have this kind of work ethic instilled into you, either naturally or it’s forced into you, and you just have to grit your teeth and do it.”
Medicine has been Moore’s calling from an early age, with her own experiences giving her the curiosity and a probable focus on cardiology.
“When I was younger I had a very benign heart condition, which I still do,” she said.
“I had all the tests and I found them really interesting and I think that sparked my interest and I really enjoyed going to clinics.
“I have a very low resting heartrate. I just get the occasional ectopic beats but nothing serious.”
So her career will take centre stage for the next few years, but Moore harbours an ambition to one day run for Great Britain.
“I think in your late 20s is probably when you’re peaking,” she said. “So I’d probably like to take a year or two out to try to get a GB vest, maybe qualify for the Commonwealth Games and try a longer distance to see if it suits me or not.”
And by that point, who knows how many parkrun records Moore will have to her name.