Hear from a former pharmacist about how running benefits mental health and wellbeing

Read Anne Cawdron, a former pharmacist and Pharmacist Support volunteer, detail how exercise benefits her mental health and wellbeing, and her experience of running the London Marathon.

Anne Cawdron is a recently retired pharmacist with 40 years’ experience in the sector. In October 2020, Anne completed the Virgin London Marathon with her friend Carol to raise funds for Pharmacist Support.  

Here, she shares with us how exercise aids her mental health and wellbeing, and why she chose to raise money for Pharmacist Support.

Hi Anne, firstly congratulations on completing the Virtual London Marathon and raising £2340.95 for Pharmacist Support. You must be so proud.

Thanks, it was an amazing day. We started off at 8:00 in low cloud and then the sun came out and it was an absolutely perfect running day. We’d chosen a route that was as much downhill and flat as possible, working our way from Buckstones (a local beauty spot), round Scammonden Reservoir to Barkisland, Norland and Sowerby Bridge, out to Hebden Bridge on the Rochdale canal and back finishing near our running club.

It was a very scenic route and one that went through significant places for us and where friends could join us or cheer us on.

What an achievement! Have you always been into running

I didn’t start running until 2008 when I entered a 5k Race for Life with some pharmacy colleagues. I wasn’t able to run 5k at that stage so vowed I’d do it again the next year but be able to run the whole thing. I’ve been running regularly since then.

You signed up to the Virgin London Marathon back in the January before it was cancelled. How did it feel running the marathon without the roaring crowds? 

We had so much support; friends who ran with us and others who met us at strategic points with drinks, food, painkillers, plasters and encouragement. This support was fantastic and made it so very special; there were three of us who completed the full distance together and we kept meeting people we knew, and some we didn’t know (also running the Virtual Marathon), along the way, especially on the canal.

We had quite a cheering squad at the finish, consisting of family and friends, with a much-needed cup of tea. I’m still buzzing – it was such a moving experience.

Read Anne Cawdron, a former pharmacist and Pharmacist Support volunteer, detail how exercise benefits her mental health and wellbeing, and her experience of running the London Marathon.

Could you tell us a little about your impressive 40-year career in the world of pharmacy? 

I retired at the end of 2019 after coming to the end of almost 40 years being qualified. I have loved being a pharmacist, feeling part of a local community, available as a source of healthcare advice, providing an understanding ear and, at times, a shoulder to cry on.

I’ve been privileged to know and work with lots of local pharmacists in a profession where we can often feel quite isolated. I was involved with the local Halifax branch of the RPSGB for many years (and secretary for quite a few), and arranged professional and social meetings for local pharmacists as well as attending meetings in London and getting to know some of the great and good in pharmacy. I was on Calderdale / Kirklees LPC for several years and latterly a member of CPWY [Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire] the LPC covering all West Yorkshire.

Most of my career has been in Community Pharmacy, both as an employee and as a contractor. I’ve often found the job challenging but always rewarding. One of the highlights was being a pre-registration tutor and I was a member of the GPhC Standard Setting Panel until quite recently. I like to think I’ve played a small role in shaping the future of pharmacy and future pharmacists.

Although I’ve stopped actively working, I plan to continue working with Pharmacist Support.

What were your reasons for running the Virtual London Marathon and raising awareness for pharmacists on the frontline?

Pharmacists in all sectors were under unprecedented stress. Covid-19 catapulted pharmacy into new ways of working and the profession rose to the challenge. Pharmacy doors didn’t closed. Patients might have had to wait outside them but the doors stayed open. Pharmacy staff worked extended hours to keep on top of the workload and ensure that patients got the advice and the medication they needed where and when they needed it.

During the outbreak I volunteered my services at a local pharmacy, firstly as a dispenser then returned to working as a pharmacist when the GPhC introduced a Temporary Register of recently retired pharmacists. The pressure of work was intense, coupled with a shortage of PPE and sanitiser and inability to adequately social distance in a busy dispensary, it was a hugely stressful time for everyone working in Pharmacy during that period.

I believe it is important that there is an organisation where pharmacists can go for advice and assistance that understands those pressures and the role of the pharmacist. When I needed help it was there for me; I’d hate to think that help was no longer available for other pharmacists in the future that might need it.

So, you had used Pharmacist Support services before?

Yes, almost 20 years ago I received invaluable help from Pharmacist Support, at that time known as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Benevolent Fund. Without that help I would never have achieved any of the things I have in both my professional and personal life. I always told myself that I would like to “give back” when I had the opportunity so, since stopping full time work, I have been privileged to be able to volunteer with Pharmacist Support.

Seeing what the charity does at close hand inspires me to fundraise so other pharmacists and their families may be able to benefit from the kind of help that was given to me.

Read Anne’s case study here

When you volunteered in a pharmacy during the outbreak, what did you do to look after your own wellbeing when working under such highly pressurised circumstances?

I tried to fit in some form of exercise every day so I either did an online yoga class or went for a run or a walk. Prior to the pandemic I hadn’t really embraced modern technology for exercise, but I started (and have continued) to use YouTube and Zoom for yoga and exercise classes when face to face classes weren’t possible.

What piece of advice would you give to a pharmacist or pharmacy student struggling with their wellbeing right now?

Get outdoors whenever you can; it’s not original advice and often repeated, but for good reason. There’s something about being outside, seeing nature and watching the seasons change that seems to put everything into perspective.

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