London Marathon beckons for clinical volunteer

Arati, back row, far-right

Clinical volunteer, Doctor of Paediatric Gastroenterology (“yes, indeed, I am all about the poo”), and keen runner, Arati is taking on the London Marathon in April this year as part of #yourchallengeyourchoice and she sat down with us recently to tell us why she’s running for OTW and why she returns to camp as much as she possibly can. 

How is the training going? Have you got a strict schedule you try to stick to? 

Training is… going! I am not sure if I believe anyone who tells me that their training is going smoothly! Something always comes up to derail it. One weekend it was storm Ciara and I am sure there will be something else. I have a training schedule from when I last ran a marathon for OTW eight years ago – the New York Marathon – but this time round I also have 4-year-old twins so fitting in training on top of them and work is definitely more of a juggling act. However, I have found that I am enjoying it more this time. 

Why did you decide you wanted to run the marathon after a running hiatus? 

I first started running in 2011 when I ran the New York Marathon for OTW, but work and kids got in the way and I hadn’t run for years until I saw that OTW had places in the Royal Parks Half marathon last October. Because of my children, I cannot volunteer for as many camps as I did previously so thought that fundraising was another way for me to be involved in Over The Wall. Thanks to OTW, I have rediscovered my love for running and so when I got the London Marathon ballot place, then of course I was going to run it for OTW! 

Arati with her children

Why OTW? 

I have been a clinical volunteer for OTW for the past 12 years and I have run out of superlatives with which to describe this wonderful charity. Camp is such a special place – actually – probably – the most special place on earth. Over the years, I have lost count of the number of children who I have seen transformed by their time at camp, but each time it is still such a privilege to see. Volunteering for OTW is one of my favourite things about being a doctor, and I intend to keep volunteering for many more years to come – I’m looking forward to attending the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Family Camp this year because I work with a lot of kids with IBD so it’s an area I feel I can really contribute to. 

What is your fundraising target and how are you going about trying to achieve that (apart from running a major marathon!) 

I don’t have a specific target in mind except to raise as much as possible. I have already raised £600 from running the Royal Parks Half and will keep running races to raise money for OTW. 

Your volunteering experience prompted you to start fundraising – what was your best memory of camp? 

It was life changing! I have so many amazing memories from camp but interestingly, my favourite is one away from it. I walked on to the ward one day in October to find a 10-year-old boy sat there wearing his orange OTW T-shirt.  I didn’t recognise him from camp, but because of his T-shirt, we instantly started chatting. He was so excited to tell me all about his camp experiences – what his favourite song was, how many times he had scaled the climbing wall, what he did at the talent show night, and that he could not wait to repeat it all again next summer.  

We have all seen the impact of OTW on campers while camp is happening, but to see how this still lasts through to a rainy, miserable day in October was something really special.  

I definitely think that I am a very different doctor because of camp. It really teaches you to look past the ‘patient’ and connect with the child. Little random chats about Paw Patrol or football scores can completely change the way that children interact with you and even how they remember the whole hospital experience.  

For this same reason, I think that OTW is a great way for children to see medical staff as more than just the ones asking for blood tests and giving medications but also as normal people who can also be fun! I pretty much spend my entire time at camp covered in face paint and I wouldn’t have it any other way! 

What advice would you give other fundraisers who are taking on a Marathon or other race for OTW this year? 

Keep getting your miles in – as best as you can. No one’s training ever goes the way that they planned it would, but all you can do is your best, and you are doing it for such a wonderful cause that there are many reasons to feel proud of yourself! 

If you would like to make a donation to Arati’s fundraising page, she (and we!) would be very grateful! https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AratiRao/2 

Why join TeamOTW? 

By joining TeamOTW you will be helping us spread the mischief and magic of our free camps for children and young people living with serious illnesses – helping us reach more families and transform more lives.  

We know that chronic illness affects lives, but OTW is here to help provide much needed fun and respite from the day-to-day management of health conditions and empower children to become the hero of their own story. We can’t do this without you – so join TeamOTW today and we will be with you every step of your fundraising journey – from the moment you sign up through to when you cross the finish line. 

What do I get if I join TeamOTW?

Aside from a burst of pride, your troupe of friends being mightily impressed with you and the knowledge that you are helping us continue to provide free residential activity camps for children with serious illness? You get: 
– An OTW bumper fundraising pack, bursting with fundraising top tips. 
– A free TeamOTW technical running vest or t-shirt, 
– Newsletters to keep you up to date with Over The Wall activities. 
– Tailored and ongoing support and advice from our Community Fundraising Officer. 
– Social media promotion from our TeamOTW Facebook page 
– A cheering committee and personalised photo (at selected events). 
– The chance to take your own team to an event or meet like-minded individuals. 

If you have any questions you can email us at events@otw.org.uk or call 02392 477110.