Triathlons – why would you bother at my age?

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Half-way round the recent Age-Group World Championships in Rotterdam

Patrick Foster (BSc 1974) spent his spare time during his degree running around the sports field track and along St Andrews’ sandy beaches, but now, more than 40 years on, he finds himself confronted by a whole different challenge as he takes on triathlons across the world. Here, Patrick tells Incomparabubble his story of why he still bothers to push himself, especially in the latter stages of events when the aches and pains kick in!

Seventeen years ago, I’d been a runner, but an injury to my Achilles tendon meant that I had to have a rethink. Triathlons were in the news then as an up and coming sport, so I thought I would try that. Swimming and biking replaced running until my injury healed. Six months were then spent re-learning swimming technique and membership of the Serpentine Running Club provided support and advice as well as the opportunity for early morning, chilly dips (not always welcome).

Once I got started, my bucket list contained some iconic events/rides with qualifying for the Age-Group Triathlon World Championships being the final and most difficult challenge.  One of the highlights was cycling up Mont Ventoux three times in a day!

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500 m to go and the strain is obvious

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Another highlight was swimming across the Dardanelles from Europe to Asia and twice completing the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.  One of the more exacting elements was swimming from Alcatraz Island to the mainland: no prisoner ever escaped from the jail, as the water is far too cold.

Over the years I’ve raised money for a number of charities. The more extreme (for that read painful) the challenge the more hands reach into pockets to support.   The aim has been to raise about £10,000 each year, much of it from matched funding programmes.

So why continue? A sense of wellbeing, feeling fit and healthy, enjoying the competition and meeting loads of new people all contribute. But I think the photo below says it all. This was taken after three of us had just competed in the Age-Group Aquathon Championship in Penticton, Canada, this August.

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This year’s racing is over and training is on the back burner for now. Next year the World Championships are in Denmark … did I mention the excuse of travelling the world as a bonus?

Since his graduation from St Andrews – and away from running, cycling and swimming – Patrick has forged a successful career in the world of environmental sciences, which has allowed him to continue to stay in touch with the University and his first love, geology. Patrick has been a member of the Advisory Board within the School of Earth and Environmental Science at the University, and a regular supporter of the School’s field trips, further information on which can be found at https://earthsci.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/bsc-geology-2/. We wish Patrick all the very best in his upcoming challenge!

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How scholarships transform lives II – Sherlock Cruz

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Sherlock Cruz was the first recipient of the London Scholarship, launched in 2013 with the aim of encouraging young students from the Greater London area to study at St Andrews by supporting them with accommodation and living costs.

Sherlock graduated this June with a BSc in Computer Science (2:1) and is now working on the graduate scheme at Citi. He explains the difference that the scholarship made to his time here:

“‘Scotland? You’re going all the way there?’ was the reaction I grew to expect when I told friends and family that I had decided to take up a place to study Economics at St Andrews.

“Sure, why would a London boy not stick around and go to one of the many good universities in the city but instead decide to subject himself to an extra year of uni and undoubtedly worse weather?

“To be honest, I was a bit afraid of how I would feel living in a small town tucked away on the east coast of Scotland, but my initial impressions from the Open Day held true and those fears very quickly disappeared once I arrived. St Andrews provides a unique combination of high quality teaching with a wide range of opportunities and activities – so really that extra year was nothing but a blessing.

“Perhaps one of the best things about St Andrews was the flexible modular system. I had applied to do Economics – a subject I had studied at A level and enjoyed – but really as an 18 year old boy, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I was able to take up modules in Computer Science – a subject I had absolutely no idea what to expect as I never had to opportunity to study it previously – but having had a strong interest in technology I thought it was worth a shot. This turned out to be one of the best choices I ever made, as I truly loved studying the subject, and had no hesitation about switching to it at the end of second year.

“I’ve just started on the Technology Analyst graduate scheme at Citi – an amazing job I absolutely never would have thought of applying to before. I am forever grateful to have been given these opportunities and be able to have experienced everything St Andrews had to offer without having to worry about the financial implications of doing so.

Although I’ve now left St Andrews, I hope to help in any way that I can to ensure that more students like me can have the same opportunities that I did in the future.”

The London Alumni Carol Service, from where the first London Scholarship originated,  will this year be held on Wednesday 13 December. 

Musicians of St Andrews

Despite not currently offering a music degree, St Andrews provides incredible opportunities for student musicians, with hundreds of students every year playing or singing in the many groups and ensembles that the University or the student-run Music Society have to offer. 

For an increasing numbers of graduates, their musical interests take them beyond their studies here, either into the world of the professional musician or into music administration. Our intern, Francis Newman, spoke to some of them about how music at St Andrews shaped their experience.

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Maebh Martin (MA 2016, French & German)

A multi-talented violinist, chorister, pianist and conductor, Maebh’s many musical achievements in St Andrews included gaining both a choral and an instrumental scholarship, singing in St Salvator’s Chapel Choir, leading St Andrews Symphony Orchestra and playing as soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the St Andrews Chamber Orchestra during the 600th Anniversary celebrations. 

What is your favourite musical memory from St Andrews?

I’m not sure I could pinpoint one occasion in particular, but what sticks with me very powerfully is the feeling of walking onstage just before, and coming offstage just after a concert; I was lucky enough to do so many times in the Younger Hall, which is a truly spectacular venue to perform in. There is nothing quite like the buzz you get from making music alongside friends and colleagues, knowing that the audience is (hopefully) enjoying it just as much as you are!

How has your degree/have your musical activities in St Andrews helped you since graduating?

Many of my closest friendships were forged through music making in St Andrews, and I have made invaluable connections worldwide as a result of being involved in both academic and extra-curricular musical life. I’ve also traveled quite a bit around Europe thanks to my Modern Languages degree, and I’ve found, without exception, that music has allowed me to connect with people wherever in the world I go.

What are you doing at the moment?

I currently live in Paris, where I teach English at the Sorbonne University, and I’m also pursuing an active musical life based mainly between Paris, London and Belfast. I have regular violin lessons with the incredible Lucy Russell and I’m just about to embark on a ten-month conducting course. Earlier in the summer, I even managed to squeeze in a visit to St Andrews to play a ceilidh on Lower College Lawn!

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Mairi in Younger Hall

Mairi Warren (MA 2016, Psychology)

While at the University Mairi, a violinist, was President of the Music Society and a member of the Hetty Buchanan Scholarship String Quartet. She also studied psychology, writing a dissertation on the effect of making mistakes on musical performance.

What was your favourite musical memory from St Andrews?

There are so many but I particularly enjoyed going to The Burn for weekends with Chamber Orchestra, and post orchestra concert socials!

How has your time in St Andrews helped you since graduating?

I work in classical music marketing, so the musical activities help with my music knowledge. My psychology degree helps with the more analytical side of marketing.

What are you doing at the moment?

I work in Marketing for the Classical Music events at the Barbican Centre in London. This involves coordinating brochures, concert programmes, digital ads, social media, e-news and website content, and liaising with resident orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra, and various visiting international orchestras and soloists. I perform regularly with the London City Orchestra and also recently took up Kung Fu!

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Rufus Sullivan (BSc 2017, Marine Biology)

Rufus was Senior Chorister of St Salvator’s Chapel Choir while here at St Andrews reading for a BSc in Marine Biology, and now works for the University Music Centre and the Scottish Chamber Orhcestra.  He has recently taken up the viola as well.

What was your favourite musical memory from St Andrews?

My favourite musical memory was probably getting to perform Bach’s fantastic B minor Mass with the St Salvator’s Chapel Choir and Kellie Consort – although several opportunities with excellent musicians like Dame Emma Kirkby, The ‘24’ and Sir John Eliot Gardiner have also been up with the best!

What are you doing at the moment?

Since graduating with a BSc in Marine Biology in the summer of 2017 I have started in the Graduate Trainee position of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and University of St Andrews Music Centre. It was less my degree and more the vast array of musical experience I managed to get in my spare time at the University that helped me get the job and now helps me in the job. My time as Chapel Choir Librarian and Senior Chorister showed me useful skills in musical organisation and administration that I am now putting into use every day

Kart Johanna Ojamae (BSc 2017, Economics)

Another former president of Music Society, Johanna was also a member of the St Andrews Madrigal Group during her time here. She also played in St Andrews Symphony Orchestra and many other choirs and ensembles. Johanna moved to London after graduation and now works at Apple doing marketing for iTunes.

What is your favourite musical memory from St Andrews?

There are too many to choose from but if I have to pick one it has to be the Madrigal Group winter tour to Estonia. It was definitely stressful to organise but seeing all the members really enjoy it and singing to the British ambassador made it all worth it!

How has your time in St Andrews helped you since graduating?

There are so many ways in which being involved with music helped me through my time at university and after. I learned to manage my time, work with professionals and became more confident in public speaking as well as in general. On top of the personal development, I also met the most incredible and inspiring people, some of who I can call my best friends today. The experiences I had and people I met through musical activities were the most valuable part of my 4 years at St Andrews!