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Business School's Nicole Burlinson on competing and finding focus through running

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Nicole Burlinson joined the University in November 2022 as an International, Engagement and Careers Administrator in our Business School supporting the operations in the International, Engagement and Careers team.

Outside of work Nicole is a competitive runner.

We spoke to Nicole about her passion for running and how it became such a big part of her life.

How did you get into running?

I’ve been a runner for most of my life – since first being picked for the cross-country team in Year 6. From there, I went on to compete for my school, Carmel College in Darlington, the Darlington Harriers, Darlington town and County Durham. Eventually I received a full scholarship to run cross-country/track and field in the USA.

In the States, I had the opportunity to compete at a national level, achieving 3rd in the nation at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II (NCAA DII) in 2014, where I participated in the 800m event. Later that year, I had the privilege of taking part in the British Championships in Birmingham, which was a significant milestone in my running career.

After my university days, I’ve entered races very intermittently. I became a member of the Garden State Track Club in New Jersey and was able to compete for them on a few occasions. I represented the club at the Club Cross Country Nationals for three consecutive years and at the Milrose Games (any track and field lovers out there will appreciate how much of a great opportunity this is!).

During my running career I had two children and continued to run throughout. Although my racing opportunities have become less frequent I recent years, I maintain my love for the sport. This year’s Durham City Run was my first race in about a year and a half.

Tell us a bit more about this year’s Durham City Run.

I heard colleagues talk about the Durham City Run around the office but didn’t give it much attention initially because I was training for the Darlington 10K, which was my primary focus. Commuting through Durham to my workplace at the Business School, I knew the course would be beautiful, but unforgivingly hilly, not ideal for my time goal.

As the Durham City Run approached, I was surrounded by more talk and marketing for the event. So, one day I looked at the website to see what it was all about. That’s when I noticed there was also a 5K. On the last possible day for registration, the Tuesday before the race, I finally committed.

I wasn't entirely certain what time I could achieve. While I had looked at results from previous years and knew it fell within a range I had reached before, I had no concrete expectations. I just knew I wanted to be competitive and give it everything I had.

In the end, I crossed the finish line first, with a time of 18 minutes, 9 seconds. I was shocked to come in as the first woman, but very pleased with the result overall.

Congratulations, what an achievement. Do you have a typical running schedule?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve run most days. Not always necessarily with a plan, but it has always played a massive role in my life. My weekly milage is usually in a range, from 30 miles a week, up to 100 miles on my highest ever mileage week. More recently I’ve been in the 45-55 miles/week range. I just love getting outside in nature and exploring everything around me – it never gets old!

Why is running and fitness so important to you?

Sports and fitness have always been a huge part of my life. It has given me so many opportunities over the years for travel, learning skills, strategy, socialising and seeing the benefits in truly committing to something. There is something special about putting together a plan and going on a journey to achieve a goal – I think it has had immeasurable benefits on who I am as a person.

Not only that, but I consider it to be 'my time' (which any parent will understand is hard to come by with two children). I don’t mind running at all hours in the morning when the world is sleeping – as long as I can get that time in. It’s a space for me to zone out, and really grounds me for the rest of the day, so I’m very grateful to be able to run.  

I also hope to show my kids how much you can achieve if you stick with something and believe in yourself, that it’s ok to be new at something, not to be the best at everything, but to always give things your best effort.

How does your family feel about your passion for running?

My family are extremely supportive of my running, and other sporting ventures. I always have a great cheering squad at events and my kids love to come and watch me race or play football on a weekend (but maybe not so much in the rain and winter weather!).



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