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People in the running world making assumptions about my running experience purely on my appearance is one of my biggest bugbears about the sport.

It happens all the time.

In fact it happens so often that I almost expect it to happen and then I find myself modifying my behaviour in case it does.

Like last week I had to go and buy a new pair of running shoes. I have been experiencing some arch pain and realised my old trainers were not going to cut it for my marathon training.

I tried to buy a pair online but got a bit bamboozled

So decided to head to the London Marathon store near Liverpool Street Station. Now there are other shops closer to me, but I headed to this one specifically because I have met the manager a few times while filming the stuff for ITV’s This Morning a few years ago…I knew he would recognise me.

Now this is not an ego thing, or wanting to get special treatment or a discount.

This was so I didn’t have to speak to a stranger about the fact I am a runner who has run multiple marathons when the little voice in my head is saying

Yeah of cause you have love

And

What in that body? You must be kidding me

Now you might be reading this thinking this is all in my head, and you would be right…it is in my head. not all the time, but often enough for me to be thinking about it.

But let’s not forget someone put it in my head, it didn’t just wind up there by itself.

So let’s have a little look through my back catalogue of people making assumptions

  • There was the Doctor who told me I was Too Fat to Run? in 2014…I had run 20 miles the weekend before in Hyde Park
  • There was the random bloke at my first track session who told me running would get easier once I got up to run 5K…this was after 2 marathons by the way
  • The time I went to a blogger meet up and the PR assistant assumed my sister was the fitness blogger and I was the inactive friend she was bringing along
  • There was the tail runner at parkrun who said “You will enjoy it the more you come” I was on like my 30th parkrun or something by this point…and I was having a whale of a time just right at the back
  • There was the volunteer at the Berlin Half Marathon that was adamant I should be in the 10K line, no matter how many times I said “No Half Marathon not 10K”

Oh and January is like the worst time to be an overweight runner out in public or at organised sessions in my view because everyone assumes you are one of the New Year New Me massive.

Maybe I should just learn to ignore it?

Well, maybe I should. Or maybe people should just be a bit more mindful of what they say to each other. Maybe people should ask questions to find out about someone’s experience and background in the sport before jumping to conclusions.

A friend of mine went to a new parkrun the other day and one of the volunteers picked her out and said

Oh, you must be an experienced runner,

simply because she had a tshirt on from a big well known race…it could have been her husbands for all he knew.

A harmless comment you might say?

But what if that affected her confidence the whole way around. What if she felt she was now being judged as someone who should be able to complete it at a certain speed, rather than just being able to do her own thing.

So here are some quick tips for not putting your mouth in it around larger runners

  • Think before you speak (good tip all round I reckon)
  • Do not assume ANYTHING
  • Ask about someone’s experience with open questions like “tell me about your running” or “What are your goals for the session” rather than “so is this your first time” and “Can you run 5K yet”
  • Don’t try to make jokes, what is funny to you might offend someone else and they might not come back
  • Be kind (Simple but oh so effective)

And finally…

Whats the most assumption someone can make?

I believe the worse thing you can assume is that an overweight runner only runs for weight loss or weight management. There a million reasons why someone might take up and enjoy the sport of running…by assuming it is simply to lose weight you are doing the women and the sport a disservice.

I’d hate to think that every time I turn up for a track session or head along to parkrun people are thinking,

God has she still not lost weight yet?

The size of my body is nobodies concern but mine.

I don’t tun to be smaller, I run to lead a bigger more exciting life and to be the healthiest happiest version of myself.

Please share this blog post as widely as you can on social media, so that it gets read by as many people as possible. Post it in your running clubs and running forums Facebook Page and forward it by email to the people who you think might benefit from a reminder.

My community is made up mainly of women, many of whom know this stuff already and sadly a lot of these comments do come from men of a certain age. So please share it where it can be read from people across the sport. I’d love to see what others think of this.

For those of you reading my blog for the first time, I am Julie Creffield Plussize Marathon & Ultra Marathon Runner and founder of Too Fat to Run? I coach overweight and inactive women using the power of sport and personal development to help them live a bigger more exciting life with a focus on health and happiness.

I am the author of 7 books on Amazon, my latest being The Fat Girls Guide to Marathon Running 

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