I left home in 1995, aged 18, to study at the University of Birmingham. I remember my dad dropping me off on the first say of term and saying to me “Christine, go for it. Take every opportunity that comes your way”. And I did. Studying was always my main priority, but I also made sure that I joined a number of clubs and teams. I was Chairperson of BUNAC, and organisation which enables young people to work overseas, and did some volunteer work with the local community. I was also captain of the University Swimming Team, although the social side of the sport always took priority over hard training! In fact, the weekly Sports Night at the Union was the highlight of the training week! During the long summer holidays I worked as a swimming instructor at a school in Boston, USA (Beaver Country Day School). I loved teaching the kids, and gained a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment from watching them gain confidence and improve their ability. Boston was a fantastic place to live, and I also got to see a lot more of the country travelling across from the east to the west coast in a ramshackle old bus!

I graduated from Birmingham in 1998 with a First Class Degree in Geography. After University, I initially intended to train as a lawyer, and decided to go travelling for nine months before my further studies began. I spent time in Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Asia, backpacking and soaking up the wealth of new experiences that this offered. Travelling brought me into contact with some really wonderful, inspirational people, landscapes and cultures and I realised the power we have to make a positive difference to the world in which we live. As time went by I had a change of heart about the career path I had chosen, and two years later I returned to the UK, determined to study and work in international development. I was awarded a scholarship to complete my MA at the University of Manchester, and moved to the north of England in September 2000 to complete this one year course.

In my spare time I did a lot of volunteer work with the homeless, and I also started to run more regularly (and played water polo, very badly!). I found that I really enjoyed the buzz that running gave me, and the challenge of going that little bit further each time. I had always dreamt of running the London Marathon, so I approached a charity, asked if I could run the marathon for them and set to work training myself (in a very obsessive but decidedly unstructured fashion!). I graduated from Manchester University with a Distinction in October 2001, moved to London and ran the marathon in April 2002, totally surpassing all my expectations by crossing the line in 3.08.17.