Halfway. Legs burning, my whole body struggling in the Spanish heat. But this was it, into the final stretch, and before too long I rounded the final corner. Boosted by cheers from the crowd, I gave it everything for the last few hundred meters and crossed the line. An hour later, after midnight, I was sat on the metro breathing in the scent of the oranges that all the runners had been given. Exhausted, I smiled to myself.
Halfway through my trip to Spain for the Invisibles School and Workshop, I spent my Saturday night running the 15km Valencia night race. The previous week I had been in Canfranc, in the Pyrenees, at the Invisibles school.
Here, along with about 80 other PhD students from all over the world, I took courses on neutrinos and dark matter. Both theoretical and experimental aspects were covered, ranging from dark matter effective field theories to statistics and particle detectors.
Lectures took place in the morning followed by tutorials in the afternoon and evening. After this intense week I learnt a lot and had a much deeper understanding of field theories.
The week following the race was the Invisibles workshop held at the Botanic gardens in Valencia. Arriving at this amazing venue on the Monday morning, I was taken through the lecture hall into the gardens, where I hung my poster amongst the plants. Then at 10:20 that morning I gave my first international conference talk – summarising my work in a terrifying 5 minutes in front of several hundred people. This was different to the usual format of 15 minute talks in smaller parallel sessions. Whilst challenging for the presenter, I really enjoyed listening to the other talks as you got a well thought out snapshot of a wide range of different topics. I presented my work on the first direct detection search for a non-conventional dark matter model – mirror dark matter. Over the rest of the week I had many interesting follow up discussions with people, it was great to think about my work from different perspectives. Talking to people who approach similar problems from so many different directions was definitely the highlight of my trip.
Looking back the race is a good representation of my whole trip – at points I wanted to give up, but ultimately it was enjoyable and very rewarding. As I sat on the plane home reflecting on my fortnight in Spain, exhausted, I smiled to myself.