Cass athletic talent

Staff and students reveal how sport helps them with their work and studies

Cass is a place of learning, knowledge and discovery.  But did you know it is also a place of athletic talent?  An academic, PhD student and undergraduate discuss how their love of running, triathlons and relay sprinting helps them with their work at Cass.

Dr Nick Motson

Dr Nick Motson, Associate Dean, MSc Programmes at Cass Business School, has ran the Marathon Des Sables – the equivalent of six consecutive marathons through the Sahara, self-supported – not once, but twice.

Nick first ran the world-renowned race in April 2016 and vowed never to do it again.  He soon changed his mind though and ran it again earlier this year, to raise funds for the London Air Ambulance.

Nick’s running journey began with a bet over Christmas in 2003 between a few colleagues. Little did he know at the time that it would lead to running 156 miles through the Moroccan desert 13 years later.

“At the time I was working at a US bank as head of a trading desk, tipping the scales at 118kg, drinking too much, smoking and eating junk food. As a desk we had a bet as to who could lose the biggest proportion of their body weight between New Year and Easter and I managed to lose 20 per cent (24kg) by cutting out the junk and starting to jog; I honestly couldn’t call it running.”

Having won the bet, Nick’s boss then bet him that he couldn’t run the London marathon the following year in less than four-and-a-half hours. Nick won the bet again and after a few more marathons and eventually breaking the 4 hour barrier, went on to complete Ironman France, Ironman Wales and the world’s toughest Ironman race, The Norseman in 2009

“In the summer of 2015 a friend told me he had a slot for the Marathon des Sables in April 2016, which planted a seed. I’d just lost a close friend after a short battle with pancreatic cancer so decided to enter and take part in the race in his memory while trying to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK.”

Nick’s second Marathon Des Sables experience saw him join his best friend Jonathan Jenkins, who he has known for nearly 30 years since they were undergraduates together at Cass.  Jonathan, who is now CEO of the London Air Ambulance, also ran the race in 2016 but was unable to continue so returned with Nick and a team of London Air Ambulance medics, pilots and past patients to try again this year.  Happily, both Jonathan and Nick were successful.

Nick, who is 50 next year, now plans to run the World Marathon Challenge - seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

Watch Nick talk about his research and running here.

Mikael Homanen

Mikael Homanen is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Finance at Cass.  His research, which was recently featured in the Financial Times, focuses on the intersection of externalities and financial markets with a further focus on banking and investor Environmental, Social & Governance policies. However, he also has another string to his bow – running ultramarathons on a 99 per cent plant-based diet.

Mikael has competed in five IronMan triathlons across the world and has previously run a 100km race from London to Brighton.  An advocate for a healthier, sustainable lifestyle which complements both his health and the environment, Mikael credits his sports practice with helping him with his PhD and research at Cass.

“While IronMans are hard work, they only require 30 - 40 minutes of training per day and it is a massive complement to academic work.  For example, I will often go swimming once my head is absolutely done with reading or coding. This is a great way to recharge and avoid burnouts. Eating a plant-based diet with less meat and sugar helps me to remain energetic during the long hours of sitting down, studying.

“I feel it is important for academics to exercise as we still tend to shun extracurricular activities, thinking that if it is not work it means you are not concentrating.  I would not have been able to pursue a PhD nor work the long hours, without the sports that have kept me focused and healthy.”

Find out more about Mikael’s research here.

Cheriece Hylton

Cass undergraduate and Team England 400 metre relay sprinter athlete Cheriece Hylton recently competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

The second year student processes business statistics and risk management on a daily basis, while also attempting to maintain a social life and train six days a week at gyms across the capital.

Cheriece admits that it is not always easy balancing her responsibilities, but says her love of education and athletics as two of the most important things in her life.

What is the best thing about studying at Cass?

“It is the best business school in London, and that is why I chose it. I also like how supportive the lecturers are and how they make their modules interesting and engaging. I love the level of diversity at Cass. We learn in an environment that is full of people with different cultures and ideologies. It is so refreshing to see all kinds of people integrating and learning together.”

Has your athletics helped you with your academic studies in Cass?

“I think the qualities that I have gained with my studies and training has instilled discipline in me. I am very strict with my time management and realise that I cannot afford to fall behind in both my training and revision. I know that if I go to my lectures I have to write up my notes, the same way that if I am preparing for a race I need to be out training on the track.

“Training for the Commonwealth Games and studying at Cass has really enhanced my vision. I have never competed at a major Championships during university term time before, so it has pressed me to be even more attentive to my time management.  I have always been committed to what I want, but my time at City has enhanced these skills.”

George Wigmore and Matthew Little contributed to this article.

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