Dr Margaret Lupton Interview: The GP triathlete

Lancashire GP and grandmother Dr Margaret Lupton runs triathlons.

Dr Lupton: 'I was absolutely hooked by the atmosphere of running in a race'

You had a daughter at 17 and took her with you to medical school, how did that feel?

I had my first daughter at 17 in the summer holidays between my first and second year at sixth form college. I didn't quite get the grades for medical school first time round, which left me in a dilemma about what to do with my career.

I went to see a careers adviser, who happened to be a wise old nun. She told me that I should pursue my dream of doing medicine or I would always blame my daughter.

So I started medical school with a toddler in tow. In some ways, having a child made it easier for me to study, without the distraction of having a busy student social life too.

During my second year, one surgeon told me I'd never make it as a doctor after I had asked to leave early to pick up my daughter from the university creche.

In my third year, a university academic GP told me that I wasn't cut out for general practice.

I have been a GP now for almost 20 years. If people tell me I can't do something, it makes me all the more determined.

My life is far more complicated these days than it ever was at medical school - working as a GP, with a husband, four daughters, two grand-daughters, a house, and all of the responsibilities, commitments and juggling that brings.

How did you get into running and then triathlons?

I took up running after my youngest daughter was born, almost 11 years ago. I had suffered from my third and most severe episode of postnatal depression, which resulted in me being hospitalised.

When I returned to work after six months of maternity leave, I was very frightened of becoming ill with depression ever again.

A new running event, Run Preston, had been organised to get the people of Preston fit, encouraging businesses to take part by entering teams in the 5k.

I had never run in my life. But I'd put on a bit of weight during my hospital stay, which I was determined to lose, and when one of my colleagues suggested we should enter a team, I was keen. I started training, but I could barely run a mile without stopping by the date of the race.

However, I did the 5k and only had to stop twice to walk and catch my breath. That day transformed my life. I was absolutely hooked by the atmosphere of running in a race. I joined a running club and started going interval training once a week. I signed up for one race after another, culminating in the Great North Run later that year. I haven't stopped.

The worst thing is not being able to run if you are injured. I have been quite lucky in my 10 years as a runner, in that so far, I have only suffered two injuries that have prevented me from running.

After the first, I found it very uncomfortable to walk, but discovered I could still swim and ride a bike. That is how I started doing triathlons.

I have done nine so far.

Any memorable moments?

The most memorable moment for me has to be winning our local Race for Life this year.

I have never won a race outright, ever. At school sports days, I was usually right at the back.

In some races these days, I occasionally win my age category, but that's often down to luck - the faster women haven't entered that particular race. To win a whole race is such an amazing feeling.

What do your family think of your interest in running?

My husband and three of my daughters have taken up running too, so the craziness seems to have rubbed off on them. I'm still working on the other daughter.

My grandchildren came to watch me run with their mum in the Manchester 10k earlier this year.

Do your patients know about your hobby and do you talk about it with them?

I do talk to patients about my hobby because often people don't believe they can do exercise, or have the time to exercise, so I tell them how I used to be a couch potato and how I found the time to change and incorporate it into my busy life.

What would you say to any GP thinking of following in your footsteps?

Just get on with it. General practice is not an easy job. Exercise is a very effective stress reliever and having a sporting hobby is, in my opinion, the best way to cope with the job.

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