I've been to a couple of conferences recently, one on Mental Health and Exercise and the other last Thursday about how to continue breaking down barriers to get women active. Both of these conferences reinforced my passion and conviction of why RunVerity was set up. These last few weeks have been so busy with races that I haven't really had time to just stop and take stock of where we are right now; so here goes….
RunVerity is inclusive, we are not just for women as men often have the same fears and feelings as women do about their ability, their body or wearing the wrong clothing/kit. They still have the same fear of judgement as women do and I was reminded of this again this weekend as I partnered Mike in the Manchester Marathon, both of us running a half marathon each. He came to the RunVerity Beginner’s Course 2 years ago thinking I was going to tell him he wasn’t good enough after week 1 as he’d never run in his life before, he was 61 years old! A story that I am very familiar with and I of course have never told anyone that they aren’t good enough, I believe anyone can learn to run. Mike did and 2 years later he ran his first ever half marathon and to say he was thrilled to bits is an understatement.
Eight RunVerity members ran the full Manchester Marathon on Sunday, wow, where do I start as everyone single one of these runners has their own story; Lisa completed the beginner’s course twice because she didn’t feel “good enough” to graduate into the main running groups after the first course, Nicola was told for years that she was couldn’t exercise due to her asthma; these are just 2 examples of the 8 runners, both men and women who succeeded in achieving their dream yesterday despite their universal barriers; in my experience barriers are not gender specific.
Research suggests that one of the reasons that people are inactive, especially girls and women, is that there aren’t very many sporting role models or heroes for women to aspire to and in my mind this is a shame because from where I was standing yesterday the role models at Manchester marathon were in abundance.
Whenever a RunVerity member asks me my thoughts on whether they think they should run a marathon, I get excitied, running a marathon is one of the most amazing things to do (in my opinion). However, I do not sugar coat it, I send them an email outlining how hard it is, how hard the training is, how exhausting they will feel and how they need to have the support of a loving and understanding partner. As women we can feel guilty for putting ourselves first and when you are training for a marathon you have to put yourself first, that marathon won’t run itself. Why do women find that so hard though? Why do we put ourselves at the bottom of the list and not the top. I read a quote this weekend that summed up how women can feel at times, especially when making time to exercise “guilt is our middle name with self-doubt our constant companion” and thought how true that was.
As I stood on the finish line yesterday, my heart filled with pride I thought again about my two recent conferences and thought about why people run and why people don’t run. Running is good for our mental health, we all know that, but what happens when our stress relief because our stressor, what do we do then? I ran the second half of the marathon yesterday as part of the relay team with Mike, I had a bib on my back which said as much and I was running with runners who had already been on the course for a good 3 hours. I was as fresh as a daisy as I passed runners who were hitting the proverbial brick wall, I felt a fraud as supporters were telling me I was “smashing it” and to keep goin, that I could do “it”, I wanted to reply, I’ve just started, I haven’t run as far as these guys, but I didn’t, I kept my head down as I was surprised to hear the negative comments coming from other runners as I passed them. They didn’t know my story, yet they compared their run with my run….Self doubt our constant companion?
So back to the Manchester Marathoners, these normal people with normal lives are what makes a good role model, an advocate, a champion, these women and men are just like you, they have in the past felt they weren’t good enough, worried they would hold back the group, felt guilty about being away from the family and putting themselves first, but everyone single one of them ran a marathon yesterday. They certainly showed Manchester that they were good enough!