January 29, 2015
We’ve all heard the expression a million times before right?
You can never truly understand someone until you have travelled a mile in their shoes
And as women we often manage to put ourselves in the position of others to better understand how they may feel but I guess until you have truly walked (or even ran) a mile in someone elses shoes it is still very difficult at times to completely comprehend the complexities of their lives…but despite that the phrase is a useful one to have in the forefront of your mind.
I started my blog in 2010 to chart my personal journey with running and weight loss, I didn’t really think about the wider issues going on but over time I found my mission to use running as a means to challenge perceptions about health and the campaign to normalise running for larger women took hold, and so a meer four years into my blogging journey I am delighted to announce that we have an official charity partner on board.
I first learned of A Mile in Her Shoes, a charity that supports vulnerable women to enjoy the sport of running, last year when I donated a bag of old kit at the launch of a fitness advent calendar team who were also partnering with them, and the more I thought about it I realised what a good fit they could be for the work that we do here on this site. My choice though is not simply because of our clear link in terms of us both working to empower women via running, or for championing sport for health and happiness, no it’s also because I personally know what it is to be homeless and vulnerable.
When I was entering my teens back in the 90s my parents divorced and our family home was sadly repossessed, resulting in us being put up in dreadful temporary accommodation for close to two years. I remember the uncertainty of packing up all of our stuff and moving from our 5 bedroom house close to our schools, to a 3 bedroom one miles away where we knew nobody. The new house had no hot water or heating for the first month, and was filthy dirty so mum refused to cook until everything was working properly, but as kids we loved eating takeaway and going to the local baths…well for a bath.
That of course was a long time ago now, and luckily I have never experienced homelessness since but I will always remember the impact it had on my mum back then, and when I think about it now I realise just how lonely and powerless she must have felt, trying to keep things as normal as possible for her 6 kids whilst striving to improve our situation.
My mum has never been into sport, but I reckon she would have done anything back then to get out of the house for an hour, to meet with other like-minded women, to do something to make her feel less hopeless about things…but sadly she never did and it took her a good few years even after we were settled to find her feet and her confidence again.
So what does A Mile in her Shoes do exactly?
Basically they create, lead and support running fitness groups for women who may be vulnerable to homelessness through a volunteer-led programme, working to identify and remove any barriers and provide all the appropriate clothing, including shoes and sports bras. In order to keep their work going, they need appropriate clothing and footwear for our female participants to wear when they run with us and clothing for plus sized runner is top of their “What we need ” list. However if you’d like to help I would suggest looking at their website on what to donate, because not everything is suitable.
A lovely lady called Nicola Miller founded A Mile in Her Shoes back in 2013 to bring together two things in which she believes passionately: the health and other benefits of running; and improving social inclusion opportunities for women affected by housing and homelessness issues. It helps she is also an LiRF (Leadership in Running Fitness) qualified run group leader.
I bumped into Nicola recently at an event let me just say with all that is going on for women in sport right now we are just both so incredibly excited about the potential for our organisations to grow in tandem via this partnership over the next few years.
So what exactly are we going to do to help?
Well to start with we are going to donate £10 from every annual subscription to The Clubhouse our unique running club for plus sized women which launches this weekend and if the interest from ladies prior to the launch is anything to go by could be a useful regular source of income for this small volunteer led charity. The fact that they have committed to specifically spend this money on catering for their plussized runners makes this partnership a no brainer for us.
I have also committed to offering my time to speak either directly to some of their groups or on behalf of the charity elsewhere to raise their profile. So I guess we will just take it from there and over the next few months ask our members how else they think they can help.
Just finding a charity in the first place with such a good fit feels great.
Running is such a universally understood sport, there is more that makes us runners the same than what makes us different, but we all know as plus sized runners that there are still misconceptions and slight prejudices that jump out occasionally from other runners, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident because they simply haven’t walked a mile in our shoes.
When some of our ladies take close to an hour to complete #OneBigFatRun and post their delight at going the distance, it may well sound crazy to someone who has been running all their life and to whom 5k is just a warm up and dusted off in 20 minutes, but the point is we are all on our own journeys in life and a bit more understanding between us all can do nothing but unite us.
So I hope you guys are excited about this new partnership and please keep an eye out for future ways to get involved in the future.