Julie Too Fat To Run Photoshoot 1_CL

When I first started running I didn’t know a single other runner.

Like seriously.

The only people I knew who run were guys from my estate who spent their teenage years running away from the police. It is hard to imagine that now, as 80% of the people I spend my time with these days are runners or into fitness of some sort.

Starting out it was tough. I was so naive. I bought a pair of trainers from Sports Direct for £25 and used gym clothes, trousers which fell down (because they didn’t have a drawstring) and vests which rid up because they were so tight fitting. I must have looked a mess. No wonder in my early days my running was so sporadic…I couldn’t deal with the shame.

I had a lot of shame in the early days. I didn’t want to be seen by ANYONE. So I often ran at night or along canal paths and nature trails. I couldn’t run for more than 30 seconds at a time to start with, so spent lots of my time walking, which felt like I was cheating.

But worse than all of this I had nobody to talk to about my running.

I was a lonely runner.

Nobody to discuss kit, nobody to discuss techniques, nobody to discuss races.

At that point it was more about having someone to talk to about running than actually running with someone, as I hated running in groups or even with just one other person. I was too slow, too sweaty, too red faced…plus my breathing sounded ridiculous. I didn’t want a run buddy to actually run with, I just wanted someone to share my experiences with.

Maybe thats why I started The Fat Girls Guide to Running…I was gagging just to have someone to share everything with.

I joined a proper running club (The mighty East London Runners) in the Autumn of 2011. My first visit was disastrous as I got completely lost and snuck off before anyone noticed, but I had a marathon to train for so knew I had to go back…so in January I did, and ran weekly with them for 4 months in preparation for my first London marathon.

I had running friends finally, folks I could talk to…it felt great.

BUT….

Something was still missing. I couldn’t talk to many of my running club friends about the things I was experiencing because lets face it I was the fattest slowest runner they had ever had at the club (thats just a guess, but I’ve never seen anyone slower or fatter in the past 5 years)…I missed having women just like me to discuss the ins and outs of being a plus sized marathon runner. You know stuff like chaffing, and being slow, and feeling embarrassed.

I needed my own gang.

So, me being me I developed one.

In 2013 after having a pregnancy related break from running, I came back with a vengeance and also made the decision to turn my popular blog into a business, always with the intent of setting up an online running club for plus size runners so that women never had to feel as lonely as I did in the early days.

The Clubhouse has been going since January 2014 and has had more than 500 members from all corners of the globe.

When I look at what I created based on a gap I saw, based on a resource I would have loved…I feel enormously proud.

What I have created with the wonderful human beings in that club is much more than a running club, it is one of the most supportive communities I have ever been in. We don’t just talk about running and fitness, or even weight loss (there is very little on that in fact) we talk about life, and how to have a happier and healthier one.

And its not just talk. We meet up too. We do this via

  • Training Days
  • Race Meet Ups
  • Socials
  • Our Annual Retreat

And women really have made friends in the online world which have escaped into the real world. When women are not seen online for a while, other women check in on them, when members are having a hard time other members send them care packages. Members donate un-wanting running books, race places and running kit. It truly is a wonderful group of Warriors!!!

And we need that.

So many of us are lonely in this world. Even when we have loved ones and a wide network of contacts. We feel alone. Like nobody understands us, like we are not enough, like we are unloved. I know, I often feel like this.

Recently the media reported with a shocking headline that,

Study suggests loneliness is more deadly than Obesity

Researchers in the US looked at 218 studies into the health effects of social isolation and loneliness involving nearly four million people.

They discovered that lonely people had a 50 per cent increased risk of early death, compared to those with good social connections. In contrast, obesity raises the chance of dying before the age of 70 by around 30 per cent.

Lead author Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, Utah, said

Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need—crucial to both well-being and survival.

And I couldn’t agree more.

When I asked the question in The Clubhouse about loneliness I received a range of responses which shed even more light on this,

It’s only the last couple of years I’ve experienced loneliness. This group has actually saved me, I still wish there were members closer by but none the less it has made a huge difference to me as I feel like I can talk to like minded people, not just about running but anything.

We have a few decent hubs of members, but are always trying to recruit members to increase the likelihood of meet ups in other areas around the UK and further.

In 2014 I became a mum for the second time, then sold my house, left my full time job of 8 years and moved back to London to live with my dad…. I knew no one, I still know very few people. Where I used to live I had a lovely group of running friends, I’ve never found that since I’ve moved. Having joined The Clubhouse this year, I’ve already been out cheering on at the marathon and hopefully making plans to meet with some more local ladies in the next few months. Sometimes the only proper conversations I have are with the people in my phone.

I know this well. Aside from the wonderful conversations I have with my 4 year old, I can spend days not talking to anyone else other than via my phone.

Running has helped me enormously, I struggle with loneliness a lot, despite being in a relationship. It makes me feel part of something, stronger as a person and I love being part of this group.

I love that my group helps women to feel less alone, not just in their running world but just generally in their lives.

There are still a lot of women though that are adamant that running should be free, they are afraid to spend money on themselves…this is such a shame, especially when I know what great value our members get for their annual fee. My members rave about the club.

We have some wonderful plans for the Autumn months including meet ups, a trip to Euro Disney, and lots of planning for the 2018 race calendar. I simply can’t wait to welcome new members and watch them grow in confidence.

We currently have an offer that for anyone who joins before the 1st September they will receive a TFTR headbuff worth £14.99, for more information about what you get and the various ways you can pay click here.

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