Oxford student Lachlan Arthur running the Boston Marathon
Oxford student Lachlan Arthur running the Boston Marathon

Student stories: Preparing for the University Ultra Run

Lachlan Arthur is a second-year DPhil candidate in Musculoskeletal Sciences at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, Green Templeton College and a Rhodes Scholar. Originally from Australia, Lachlan has been selected to represent Oxford in this year's first ever University Ultra Run in July.

With students from Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews racing from Land's End to John O'Groats, Lachlan tells us how he got involved, his time at Oxford and ambitions for the future.  

The journey so far

I grew up and went to school in Gawler, South Australia. I was awarded a Tuckwell Scholarship to attend the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra where I completed a Bachelor of Philosophy – Science with Honours in Medical Research. I am part-way through completing a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery at the ANU Medical School, however I was selected as the 2021 Rhodes Scholar for South Australia which led to me taking leave from medical school to study at the University of Oxford.

In Oxford, I am now in my second year of a DPhil in Musculoskeletal Sciences as a member of Green Templeton College. My research focuses on optimising surgical instruments for the Oxford Knee, a unicompartmental knee replacement developed in Oxford in the 1970s and is now the most widely used in the world. 

What are you involved in outside of your studies? 

Outside of my studies I am a member of the Oxford University Cross Country and Athletics Clubs. Last year I was a member of the University’s marathon team which competed against Cambridge at the London Marathon, which serves as the Varsity Marathon match, and received a Half Blue in Athletics for my marathon performance. I ran again this year as a member of the team. I am the Men’s Rowing Captain at Green Templeton Boat Club and spend a lot of my free time down at the river or in the gym rowing. I also work as an anatomy demonstrator and prosecter teaching anatomy to first year undergraduate and graduate medical students within the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics.

How did you get involved in the University Ultra Run? 

I got involved in the University Ultra Run after hearing about the plans for the event through the Cross Country Club and then being put in touch with the organiser, who didn’t need to do much to convince me that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have always had the idea of running across a country in the back of my mind – inspired by a friend who ran 4000km down the east coast of Australia and Ned Brockman’s efforts running from Perth to Sydney last year.

The opportunity to compete in such a unique race with the history of the competition between Oxford and Cambridge, with St Andrews thrown into the mix, and of course the opportunity to raise funds for Mind to support the incredible work it does for mental health. Running from Land's End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) just sounds like a crazy adventure and an awesome way to see the UK. I can’t wait to get out there.

What has your time at Oxford been like?

My time in Oxford has been a whirlwind. I arrived in September 2021 having come out of strict COVID lockdowns, so it was a shock to my system when I arrived and immediately dived into so many different academic, social, and sporting activities. The best part about Oxford is definitely getting to mix with so many interesting people from across the world. Through my department, college, the Rhodes Scholarship cohort, and different sports teams I have made friends, started collaborations, and had many adventures. Like any organisation, the people are the most important part, and Oxford attracts some of the best people.

What does taking part in the Ultra Run mean to you?

For me personally, it is an opportunity to challenge myself. Lots of students in Oxford thrive in extracurricular activities. My philosophy is that sport helps me to find balance. I am challenged daily by the academic rigours of completing a DPhil at Oxford, and sport offers me the opportunity to switch off from academics and challenge myself in other ways. I have been connected with some great people through my involvement in the event from the organisers, other runners on Team Oxford, our coach, and the competitors from Cambridge and St Andrews. By running, completing, and (hopefully) winning the inaugural University Ultra Run, I expect to create incredible memories to look back on from my time at Oxford.

Looking to the future
In terms of running, I hope to keep getting faster and running further. Among other races this year I will compete in the Tokyo Marathon and Chicago Marathon, after which I will receive my Six Star Medal for completing the six World Major Marathons (the marathon’s equivalent of tennis’ Grand Slams or golf’s majors). I am still yet to compete in a race on the track, and hope to do so before I leave Oxford. In the long-term I hope to continue competing in marathons across the world. Depending on how LEJOG goes I might even try running across another country!

After completing my DPhil I plan to return to Australia and complete medical school. I intend to train as an orthopaedic surgeon and practice orthopaedics in Australia while maintaining an interest in teaching and research. I have a particular interest in making surgical care more affordable and accessible, and I hope to contribute to this cause in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

What opportunities are there for other students to get involved in sport?

I believe the University provides a huge number of opportunities to participate in sport. Rowing is the classic example of Oxford students participating in sport, and rowing for my college boat club has definitely been a highlight of my time in Oxford. There are a huge variety of sports on offer with great funding and coaching available. Whether students want to try a new sport, play a sport socially in intercollegiate competitions, represent the University in a Blues sport, or compete at an international level, the opportunities exist in Oxford.

The University Ultra Run takes place on 19 July and is organised in aid of Mind.