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Sometimes I literally bump into my candidates for Runner of the Month, and this month this was most definitely the case. Whilst apprehensively waiting at the back of a 1000 strong field of parkrunners at Bushy Park a lovely lady side stepped across and told me she read my blog, we wished each other well set off…but as fate would have it we ran at a pretty similar pace and ended up running much of the event together…chatting as we went. That lady was Doctor Sarah Masterman and I simply had to feature her this month…so enjoy.

763757-1184-0017sTell us a bit about you.

I am Dr Sarah Masterman, I am a 37 year old mum of three and GP and I live and work in Richmond, not far from where we met that Saturday

When did you start running and why?

I started running in 2011 after my son was born as I needed to get fitter and look after myself more so I started doing parkruns to improve my fitness. When he was sick it gave me a really good outlet for my worries about his health (he is under Great Ormond Street for complex health problems and is our daily miracle), and running gave me a little me time with my two other children. Since I started doing parkrun I’ve managed a half marathon, a Santa run and London Marathon. I’m NEVER fast but I just love it and the girl that did that marathon 6 months after the birth of her third child is a different one from the girl on the start line – something as a bigger girl I never dreamt I could do.

Did you run a lot when you were younger?

I was always an active kid but never managed to do organised sport as I didn’t have a particularly sporty family or sport role models. I was a very academic kid and didn’t have time for sport. When I became a mum I wanted my kids to see a positive role model in me enjoying physical activity, with no boundary to what they could or couldn’t do. I wanted them to embrace an active outdoor life no matter size or gender.

What do you love and hate about the sport of running?

It is so accessible – no one cares what you look like or how fast you really are – it’s about rocking up, taking part and trying to challenge yourself to do things you didn’t think you could do. I love the sense of community at big events and parkruns and how friendly everyone is – we are all in it together! And I love you can start small and gradually improve at your own rate – plus I love the outdoors even in the rain and snow!

I hate that a large in most running gear doesn’t fit me- I’m tall and big boobed and I simply won’t fit in a lot of running gear without showing a little too much skin! I would love really great technical clothes for the larger lady and without having to order mens t-shirts for races…And I wish I had had the confidence to join a running group when I first started running as I’ve always trained alone.

How often do you run?

3 times a week- hail, rain or shine…Most of my runs in the week are between 5-7k. I have gone up to marathon distance though! I never thought I’d write that!!!!

Do you parkrun? 

I do the infamous Bushy Park (it’s like turning up to a lycra clad rock concert on a Saturday morning – insane!)

763731-1178-0020sHave you taken part in any races? 

I did London Marathon 2014, Santa Run in 2013, Hampton Court Half 2014 and coming up is the Richmond Festival of Running in September (where we will have a team of TFTR ladies and a VIP area at the end for beer drinking)

Have you had any negative experiences whilst out running?

Apart from blisters absolutely none… even a bad run feels ok once it’s done

What are your biggest fears or hangups about being a plus sized runner?

I fear people judge my size – I’m neither naturally light nor athletic. I hate being slow and always at the back of the field – I’m always apologetic about how slow I am.

But running is all about the mind and the body. I can’t run without my muscles doing what I tell them to, but I can’t get to the finish line without my strength of mind. I worry my body will let me down compared to the ‘skinnies’. But my body is stronger than it ever was before running. I’m scared of failure and not making it. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been though – and damn it I’m proud of this body – its grown and made three wonderful little people – tiger stripes and all – and it got me through the Marathon.. only 1% of people can say that!

This girl CAN!

What is your ultimate running goal and whats stopping you from getting there?

My ultimate goal is to do other marathons.. I’m doing London again this year and I’ d love to do under 5 and a half hours.. I think I need more cross training and a lot more time – I trained for London 2014 in 12 weeks!!!! I’d love to run a half marathon with my husband as well – he’s started running since last year and would make me so proud to do one with him.

What’s more important to you and why? Frequency, running or distance of running?

Getting out there each and every run – sometimes I’m feeling one more than the other but for me it’s the act of getting my bum out the front door and getting down to it.. air in lungs, one foot in front of the other- nothing more nothing less….

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?

Give them more one to one support – I think if they see other bigger girls getting out there and doing it the fear factor evaporates. It took me three years from registering with parkrun to actually doing my first one. Why? I was afraid of failure, afraid I would be judged, laughed at.. that unconfident teenage voice in my head despite all my professional successes stopped me from just trying and joining in. But that first parkrun got me out there… if I can.. anyone can….that first 5k hurt like hell but there was no other way to do it than to just do it. 

763706-1287-0037sWhat are the biggest barriers for plus sized women?

Comfy technical fabric clothing which fits well and does the job.. I’m sick of trying on tshirts and my muffin top being more than visible! Big girls need comfortable wicking fabrics in nice colourways which make them feel great.. I feel 100% more the part at a start line wearing something I don’t feel hideous in.

I think each girl feels different about what their personal barriers are – I think we need more empowerment for particularly young women to embrace sport and activity in all forms at any body size. BUT I think there also needs to be more acceptance of women by women as well..

What would you say to other runners just starting out?

Start slow, forgive yourself for the initial failures/stumbles and days you don’t feel like it.. don’t look at yourself in the mirror just think about every step, every heartbeat and always look forward.. and get out there… do it..

What have you learned about yourself through running?

So so so so many things I don’t know where to begin. Running is deeply spiritual and meditative. I have had quite a few runs where I’ve just cried and cried as I’ve worked through so many things. I think the physical activity makes you work through all the other stuff. I’ve had huge moments of breakthrough in confidence and esteem through running in a way I never thought possible. I had a lot of confidence issues growing up and running has sort of mended a lot of it. It helped me work through a lot of tough times, heartache and worry. And made this mummy a little saner and happier…

Has the Fat Girls Guide to Running helped you in any way, if so how?

Julie helped me get through parkrun a few weeks ago at Bushy Park! And seeing her and other role models is so inspiring. Its also really lovely having someone to run with.. I’ve trained entirely on my own for the most part and so having other runners like me is so refreshing. Plus professionally I can tell my patients they REALLY can do it as well..Sometimes you have to show patients you can walk the walk too.

Check out Sarah and I in this short video of my 50th Parkrun

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