September 30, 2014
Each month the perfect runner for this feature kind of just falls into my lap, and this months phenomenal woman comes via the Run Mummy Run forum. When I read her transformation story I got in touch and I just hoped she would be interested in getting involved. Luckily 30 year old Amy from Emswroth in Hampshire agreed.
When did you start running and why?
In August 2013 I weighed almost 19stone and began walking to help with weightloss, after 3 knee operations I had to take it easy to begin with but soon I was knocking out 20 milers so I started to jog and by April 2014 I was actually running. At the same time I discovered I had gallstones and was placed on a special diet which meant my weight dropped quite rapidly and running made sure I toned up at the same time. Running motivates me to carry on as I always have something to strive towards, a new 5K PB, my furthest distance or my best pace.
Did you run when you were younger? Yes I was incredibly active as a child and even joined the Royal Marines when I was 16. It was when I left the Royal Marines and developed a tumour on my thyroid at 18 that my problems with weight began.
What do you love and hate about the sport of running? I love the dedication it requires. Running is a sport where it pays to keep at it, as a short time off can set you back a bit. Knowing this motivates me to get out there even when sometimes I’d rather not. I love the simplicity but at the same time I love the cool stuff you can buy (so far I have new kit, funky trainers and a garmin)
I hate the pressure society puts on people who exercise in public. As my confidence has grown it affects me less but when I first started I worried constantly about what people thought, to the extent that I only ran at night for quite a while. Nowadays I don’t care.
How often do you run? I try to run 3 times a week but as a mum to 2 boys and wife to a Royal Marine this doesn’t always happen. When my husband is deployed I end up running up and down my 80 metre road again and again just so I can get a 5k in here and there!
What kind of distances do you run in training? It depends but essentially I always do a 2.5K and a 5K each week. I’m trying to increase my distance to 10K now so these will change over the coming months.
Do you parkrun? Ohhh I love parkrun. I’m fairly new to it but I have found it to be a fab place to be. My local is Southsea in Portsmouth.
Have you taken part in any races? This year I did Race for Life with my family where we dressed at the Avengers, it was more of a determined walk though as my family don’t run. Then I ran Pretty Muddy which was my first real outing as a runner. I did the 5K + obstacles in 45 minutes which I was thoroughly pleased with. Since then I have done a virtual triathlon and a virtual 5K in a time of 34 minutes. I have just done a virtual 10K too…the longest distance I have ever done.
Have you had any negative experiences whilst out running? Personally I have found people to be generally very encouraging, but once when I was first starting out an old lady stopped me to tell me it was heart warming to see such a fat woman running!
What are your biggest fears about being a plus size runner? Appearance. What I look like as I run, what wobbly bits are on show, how I must look. Recently I have become less bothered, but I guess it’s still in the background preying on my confidence.
What is your ultimate running goal? I want to start running extreme races. So stuff like Tough Mudder and Zombie Apocalypse races. I also would like to do a Half Marathon. Distance is my problem at the moment but I am going further and further so think I will be good to go in the Spring.
What could the government, local authorities etc do to encourage more people to take up running and sport, especially overweight and inactive women? Attitudes need to change. Society can mock and judge overweight people freely and without consequence and nowhere is as bad as when a fat person gets out and exercises. I would say for the most part people respect those who get up and work hard but there will always be those few that with a couple of choice words can destroy someones self-esteem. I love the idea of The Fat Girls Guide to Running as it challenges that perception and offers women solidarity to get up and moving. the government should be financing and supporting movements that offer such a positive influence.
What are the biggest barriers for plus size women? A lack of exercise clothing that is designed just for them. Most places go up to a size 16 and that’s crazy. When I was a size 22 I was forced to wear stuff that was utterly inappropriate. This only fuels the low self-esteem, if you are going to exercise in public you want to look and feel like you fit in, not like a walking jumble sale. Women who run, regardless of size face hecklers everyday, now add extra weight and rubbish kit. It’s no wonder so many women are obese and unable to find the confidence to do anything about it.
What would you say to other runners just starting out? Put on something comfy, lace up those trainers, count to 10 and step out onto the street with the confidence of someone who is taking steps to make their lives healthier and happier. At first it is hard and months on I can tell you it is still hard but when I look at my times and distances I realise how far I have come. In months to come you will do the same. I know right now the thought of running down the road might fill you with dread but do it anyway because you can. You will be stronger, fitter and healthier for doing something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Go for it!!
Has the Fat Girls Guide to Running helped you in any way? I am new to the movement but I am encouraged by it. It is a means to offer support, solidarity and sisterhood to those who are often neglected by the sporting community. It gives larger ladies a place to ask questions, seek advice and shout about their achievements, all in a safe and supportive environment. As the movement grows, so will the confidence of those in it until all overweight women feel they can run, proudly and without shame.
I can achieve things I never thought I could. I can run distances that I never thought I’d ever run. My body did this. Mine. I can do it, I just need to keep trying when things get tough.
Well ladies, I hope you will join me in congratulating Amy on what she has achieved so far and wish her well with her future running plans.
So much of what she talks about rings true for me too, especially the bit about having decent kit.