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I seriously need to get a new hobby. Whilst running around the rather hilly Greenwich Park a few weeks back I found myself eyeing up a young lady in front of me, she was someone who I would probably describe as my “Target Market” and in all honesty in the first few kilometers I figured she would tire soon and I could plod past her and do my thing. But noooooo….this lady would not stop, including the long hills the park is renowned for. So when I spotted her afterwards we caught each others eye and I told her how incredible she was. At first I worried she would think I was being patronizing or rude, but she was just so damned happy with what she had just achieved..as was I getting under 1.15 which was my target. Anyway I asked her if she would be my runner of the month, and of course she obliged. So I introduce Amanda Mead…the lady in front of me that wouldn’t give up. Tell me a bit about you. Well, I am 25 and live in Essex and I am currently a size 16. Did you run a lot when you were younger? At school I was always the one hiding in PE lessons. I hated sports the only sport I really enjoyed was swimming but I didn’t go that often as I hated getting into a swimming costume. What do you love and hate about the sport of running? I hate how hard I find it sometimes to keep going when I feel like I want to stop but then this turns into a positive that I love about running when I feel like I have achieved a ‘good’ run. I also love the sense of blocking the world out – I work quite a high pressured job and I also volunteer in an equally stressful role so I do love to use running as an escape from every day stress. How often do you run? I run 3 times a week, sometimes 4 depending on timing with shifts at work. What kind of distances do you run in training? I have only been running 5-8k to train for the 10k race that I just completed in Greenwich on the 9th November. Have you taken part in any races? Please tell us about them My first race was the 5k race for life for cancer awareness which was July 2014. I had never done anything like this before and was so proud of myself for completing it especially for such a good cause. I also just completed one of the winter series 10k races at Greenwich Park. This was the first time I had ever ran 10k, my manager and I ran it together – she is an avid runner and I was really nervous about running the race but in the end I actually really enjoyed the experience. Its made me want to either do a 10 mile run or be a bit more ambitious and run a half marathon. What are your biggest fears/concerns/hangups about being a plus sized runner? Being quite young still and very self conscious about how I look in general I am always paranoid about how I look when I run. When I arrived at the winter series 10k run at Greenwich all I kept saying was ‘I’m the fattest one here’ ‘I look like an idiot’ ‘everyone’s going to judge me’ ‘I’ll be the last one across the finish line’. I don’t want people to look at me and think ‘she’s such a fatty’ I want them to look at me and think ‘good for her’. I basically don’t want to look stupid. What’s more important to you and why? Frequency, running or distance of running? Frequency – I feel that if I don’t run for a few days I cant run as well so its all about, for me, consistency. I do wish I could run a bit quicker too but this is something I am improving on slowly. What could the government, local authorities, sports clubs etc do to encourage more people to take up running and sport, especially overweight and inactive women? I feel that something should be done to change the way media perceives the ‘perfect woman’ to be. The media influences girls/women of all ages and I know for me it makes me feel insecure and ashamed to be the size I am which has made it harder for me to get started running and into fitness in the first place. I work as a support worker for young vulnerable adults and I see way to many times young girls with body issues that take over the lives in such a detrimental way. I don’t know what it is like at other gyms but I know I would feel a lot better if staff at my gym gave me support and encouragement other than the odd hello but then again – I don’t want to ask for help for the fear of looking silly – catch 22. Maybe some more female only gyms? I’m not sure but schools should definitely work on confidence and promoting positive body image from a young age as I feel this would have helped me a lot more. What are the biggest barriers for plus sized women? The confidence for getting started, well that’s what I found. I remember the first time I stepped foot in a gym, I had sat outside psyching myself up for about an hour. What would you say to other runners just starting out? Go for it. Put your headphones in, shut the world out and just try. You wont ever know until you give it a go. What have you learned about yourself through running? I have learnt that I can conquer fear even when I am embarrassed or unsure of myself I can give things a go. Has the Fat Girls Guide to Running helped you in any way, if so how? I only found out that fat girls guide to running existed yesterday! I am going to have a good old read and definitely take some tips away from it.

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