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Come on let’s face it girls, running can be tough, especially in the cold, drizzly weather of the UK this time of year.

But it can also be quite challenging simply if you are a beginner, or are returning to the sport after injury of a break. Running is a battle of the body and of the mind, it takes planning, motivation and a whole heap of sheer bloody mindedness sometimes just to make it out the front door.

Especially if you are female.

In my new book Scream if you want to Run faster I talk a lot about gender and the role it plays in the psychology of this sport. Why women often struggle to see as much progress as they would like, why they are scared to start in the first place, the inequalities, the cultural norms, the seemingly unfair nature of it all.

IMG_9492This image that I came across yesterday on Facebook wasn’t even about running, it was about politics but hey, it couldn’t be more true for us too, who else has to carefully negotiate their running schedule around so called women’s duties? Or always seem to be the first to give up an event if one of the kids are sick?

All the news coverage around England Athletics research around women being harassed in the street doesn’t help things much either, prompting me to write a blog post last week entitled Women Shouldn’t have to Run in Groups to feel Safe, a sentiment I stand by 100%

The landscape for running and sport for women more generally has to change to make it more appealing to the masses…and in my opinion that change is not going to come from the powers that be, the change that is required in our sport requires change of epic proportions, the kind of change that only happens when individuals get behind a movement and collectively make that shift.

We need an army of super heros…or should that read super heroines?

And I am not just talking about dressing up at WonderWoman at your next race (although thats always kind of fun), I mean really embodying the values and attitudes that will live on in generations of runners for years to come.

So here are my top 3 tips for becoming your own running super hero

Number 1 – Be Fearless

The stories we tell reinforce the belief that something is so. Like “oh its not safe to go running at night” or “you will damage your knees if you run too much” We need to check ourself on all the negativity and actually consider that perhaps things are not all that bad. Often the most damaging stories are the ones we tell ourselves. I am too slow, too fat, too old to take this running thing seriously. People will laugh at me, think “look at the state of that” but trust me when you are out there so many people see you for the super hero that you are. Each person you pass in the street, every passenger sitting on the top deck of a bus looking down on you…is potentially thinking “hhmmm, if she can run maybe I could” Do not let fear of judgement, fear of ability (or lack of it) deter you…you are a one women force to be reckoned with, and your ability to overcome fear is what makes you stronger each and every day.

Number 2 – Be Kind

Be kind to yourself. When you are finding things hard. When you are not seeing the progress you want. When you haven’t been out for a few days. A should mentality gets you nowhere in life. Take time out. Breath. Try again. But also, be kind to others. Don’t get frustrated when people give encouragement that you see as patronising, smile and say thanks. Let the hecklers do their thing, as Michelle Obama says “When they go low, we go high” Ignore the old bloke at the running club who keeps telling you “if only you lost some weight and you’d get faster” no shit sherlock. Just smile. And also remember what it feels like to be a non runner or a newbie. Offer support where appropriate but don’t preach or overwhelm with advice. People will find their way to and through the sport in their own time.

Number 3 – Be Happy 

We are all at different levels with our running, and there is nothing worse than someone moaning about their run on social media with words like “Oh gosh cant believe how slow I was” when hundreds of women dream of a 5K in that time. Comparison is absolutely the thief of joy…and surely we should be running for the love of it right? Be proud of your accomplishments, set goals and go smash them, but remember we all run for different reasons, to win races, to collect medals, for health or happiness, or simply to escape the kids for half an hour. Enjoy, have fun, and remember why you do it in the first place.

I have been running for around 12 years now. I have run marathons. Travelled abroad to take part in races. I am a member of a traditional running club The East London Runners, and the Head Coach of my own online running club (The Clubhouse) I am an avid park runner, and a huge fan of many of the big running events, brands and companies around the UK

But…and mines a very BIG BUTT….

Times are a changing, and I believe the sport of running has the potential to absolutely transform the health of our nation, if only we would all get out of our own way and enable it to happen.

Be an advocate for the sport, an ambassador, a spokesperson. Lead by example. Get out there and be seen. Let’s make women of all shapes and sizes running in public so common place, that hecklers are the one who feel embarrassed and in the minority.

It is our sport, and we should be proud to be a part of it.

So stand up big and tall, be counted and lets make 2017 the year that women really do run the world.

Too Fat to Run helps overweight and inactive women from all over the UK and beyond survive and thrive in the sport of running, through its campaigning and online coaching programmes. With no government funding and headquarters in the corner of my front room in an East London flat our programmes have helped tens of thousands of women gain in confidence and ability.

On somedays I feel like a super hero as I force myself to put my big girl pants on and face the day. Running a business, raising a child as a single parent and training for the multitude of races I do each year. But sometimes I also feel like the damsel in destress calling out for someone to come rescue me from my inbox and the weight of expectation around what I can deliver.

I am only one person.

For the Too Fat to Run movement to grow I need support, funding, collaborators, and of course paying customers (check out all of the incredible programmes and products we sell to subsidise our campaigning work)…else the movement can not do all of the things it knows it can to tackle obesity, inactivity and more importantly the chronic unhappiness that so many women feel.

Women tell me that my programmes are a lifeline. That they would never have achieved their goals or turned their depression or other health problems around. But many women can not or will not pay for running programmes that they believe they can find for free elsewhere, which is why we offer FREE memberships to women that need them.

If you would like to gift a membership to The Clubhouse we will match that with a second one. This will give 2 ladies 12 months of coaching and support delivered in a way that suits them…ie online, and not requiring them to go to a running club once a week where they are consistently last.

If you are a sports brand, government agency, local authority, NHS trust, funder, or individual with ideas for how to help, please get in touch…I am all ears!!!

PS I would like to say a massive thank you to the Run Mummy Run lady who gave me permission to use the picture of her lovely superwoman inspired legs in this post. 

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