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Work Life: Emma Hyatt, Head of Race For Life

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Emma Hyatt, 37, is head of Race For Life at Cancer Research UK. She lives in South Ealing, London, with her husband, Oli, who owns an animation company

"I’m definitely a morning person, so I have no problem getting up when the alarm goes off at 6.30am. I make a cup of tea, shower and get dressed – trousers and a smart top for regular days, a nice dress and heels when I have an important meeting. I wear lots of high street stuff and I’ll pair a Topshop dress with a Reiss jacket. My commute is pretty straightforward. I travel across London on the Piccadilly Line to King’s Cross, then walk the last 10 minutes to my office in Angel.

I arrive at my desk at 8.30am and check my diary so I know exactly what I’ve got coming up that day, but my top priority is always breakfast. I nip up to the office canteen and buy my second cup of tea of the day and two slices of brown toast which I eat at my desk while scanning through my emails. It’s my morning ritual.

I’ve been in my role as head of Race For Life for two years, although I’ve worked in various marketing roles at Cancer Research UK for the past 12 years. My main task is to lead my team to raise £50million for Cancer Research UK each year. It’s a massive target and I definitely feel the pressure – we’re constantly updated about where the money is going and I know there are scientists who need that money for their research. Thankfully, I have such a competitive streak that it’s a positive pressure and I’d take it personally if I missed my target.

The cause soon overwhelms you and one story in particular will stay with me forever. A few years ago, I received a letter from a woman with a picture of her 11-year-old son who had recently died from cancer. We’d been running our ‘I shouldn’t be here’ campaign, which featured scenes of both cancer survivors and the people who’d lost loved ones. The woman had seen the TV advert and sent me a picture of her son because he should still be here. I kept that photo on my desk for a long time.

Half my role is overseeing the logistics of staging more than 230 5km races around the UK and this covers everything from technical issues to customer services. Our race season runs from May to July and every year I make sure I do a race myself. This year, I’m running in Stratford-upon-Avon which is near where I’m from. Last year, I did a London race and my husband said he’d sponsor me £100 if I ran it in under 25 minutes. I failed miserably, clocking in at 30 minutes. This is the one area where I’m not competitive – I’m just taking in the atmosphere and reading the dedication signs on the backs of women’s vests.

The other half of my job is advertising and marketing. I have to persuade half a million women to take part in the races each year. When Race For Life started 19 years ago, it was a revolutionary concept, but now we’re competing with different fundraising causes, so we need to make sure Race For Life stands out. I helped pick this year’s campaign: ‘Cancer, we’re coming to get you’. I love how feisty and empowering it is. I’ve turned these runners in their pink shorts, tutus and fairy wings into an army of women who are marching on cancer.

To keep the race fresh, we’ve come up with the idea of the Cancer Slam – a simple, fun, eight-step dance routine we’ve been asking women around the country to take part in. It will be performed at every race so by the time it comes to Hyde Park, our biggest event, on 14 July, we’ll have 10,000 women doing it.

I’m incredibly focused when I’m at work. Colleagues comment that I’m good at spinning lots of plates and I don’t really stop for lunch. I pop up to the canteen for vegetable soup or a jacket potato if I know I’m going to the gym that night and eat at my desk. I try to get to the gym twice a week and I play hockey too. Working here has definitely made me value my health more.

I prefer to work non-stop until 5.30pm and I rarely stay late in the office because I just won’t be productive. That said, I check my BlackBerry at home in the evening. Sometimes I take my campaign ideas home and run them by my husband Oli. He’s my biggest critic and we’ve had some heated debates over wine.

I’m usually in bed by 10pm, completely knackered. I’ll put the TV on, and nod off in front of a property programme. We’re Grand Designs obsessives – we’re actually renovating a cottage in Northamptonshire at the moment. I go to sleep thinking about cement-mixing and rewiring."

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