June 29, 2016
Its that time of the month again (no not that time), it’s time to showcase one of the awesome women from our running community in our runner of the month feature…and 35 year old Jenny Bennett from Petersfield in Hampshire has a thing or two to say about this crazy sport we like to take part in, and is a glowing example to us all on how to just get out there and make it happen.
When did you start running and why? I stepped out for my first run since I left school in 1996 in July last year. I’d been steadily putting on weight for years and last year my lifestyle became more important than my weight so instead of taking on a crash diet I wanted to do some serious exercise.
I find the gym really intimidating and I’m lucky to live in a rural area so there were places I could run where I wasn’t constantly in vision of anyone. That being said for the first few months if a car drove past me I used to stop and play with my phone or look at some flowers so they wouldn’t see me running!
I’ve got a three year old daughter (me too) who is very active and I run because I want to be healthy enough to run around with her. I want to show her that even if your plans for your weight don’t work out it’s never too late and you can change it.
Did you run a lot when you were younger? No – I was into horse riding and I used to cycle quite a bit but once I’d left school my level dropped dramatically.
What do you love and hate about the sport of running? I love the freedom – I can be anywhere and go for a little run and all I need are my shoes. I’m new to running and using the couch to 5k program – currently I’m on week 5 – so I’m not out for long but that half an hour is mine. All mine. For that half an hour I’m not Mum, I’m not working and I’m not being pulled in lots of directions. I’m just me spending half an hour listening to music I like while slowly going an impressive shade of red and sweating a lot!
I don’t like the pressure. The second you say to someone you’ve started running they want to know if you have entered a run, if you have a time you are aiming for and if you want to run a marathon. If I’m honest at the moment at the moment I’d just be happy to get above 8 minutes running so the thought of taking part in a race is so far from my brain! I think it can be difficult for other people to process the fact that you just like running and in turn that makes you start to think you should think about times, pace and big events.
How often do you run? I really like to get out three times a week but between family and work it can be just once a week. Once a week is better than nothing.
What kind of distances do you run in training? I try to cover a 5k distance as often as possible but my Couch to 5k doesn’t have me there yet! I tend to get between 3-5k total which is just fine with me. Still further than I was last year when I was still sat on the sofa thinking about running rather than actually doing it.
Do you parkrun? I’ve done one parkrun at Havant and I had a brilliant time – I was so worried they’d all be so much faster than me but every single person was encouraging and kept me moving. A lovely lady slowed down to pace me when she could see I was starting to struggle around the 4k mark. I couldn’t recommend parkrun highly enough – it’s an incredible organisation and one we should treasure. They are making 5k runs free and accessible to people of all abilities – it really is brilliant.
Have you had any negative experiences whilst out running? Yes – a few days after I first started I was running and someone said to their friend “look – run fatty run”. I’ll happily admit I cried – I was instantly back at school and being bullied again. I went a different route so I didn’t have to run past them again but I did keep going. I dreaded seeing them again but each time I ran past them I felt like I was conquering my fears a little bit more. More recently I had some kids refer to me as a “fat, sweaty bitch” and my thought process was a sign of how far I’ve come in my confidence – I not only kept on running but did it with a smile on my face. I am fat, I was sweaty but I’m not a bitch – I’m just someone trying to do something to improve my health which is more than they were doing sat on a bench in a park eating a Greggs sausage roll. As long as I keep going, keep putting one foot in front of the other and stay positive I’m already winning.
What are your biggest concerns about being a plus sized runner? I hate the thought of people laughing at me, I hate the thought of people judging my jiggle but I know they are going to. Nothing I can do about that. What I can do is keep going, keep improving, keep working hard and keep pushing through – one day I know I’ll see someone else who is plus size who is too scared to go out. If seeing me wobble and puff my way round town can encourage them to take up running them it’s worth it.
What is your ultimate running goal and whats stopping you from getting there? I want to get to 5k and then 10k and within the next 5 years take part in an endurance event. I’ve no interest in marathons or events that are road running as I know my knees and calves will make it horrendously painful but events like Equinox 24 really interest me and one day I’d like to take part as part of a team. The only thing stopping me is my current physical limitations and the time to get out there – being a working parent makes it hard but I’ve got to keep finding the time.
What’s more important to you and why? Frequency, speed or distance of running? Just the act of going running – doesn’t matter if it’s a mile or 5 miles and if it takes 10 minutes or 3 hours. For me running isn’t about distance or time, it’s about finding a moment in a day to be selfish and do something just for me. To do something I find challenging and at times pretty scary. It’s important to me that my daughter see’s me challenging myself and grows up know that it’s ok to test your limitations and you shouldn’t ever not try to do something just because you are too scared to or because someone told you you can’t.
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? Firstly they should never charge for Parkruns to be held – I feel really strongly about that. Parkrun is one of the only events I’m aware of that is held weekly, is free and is open to runners of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels. When I ran mine I could feel my calves pulling (I’ve got shortened calf muscles) and someone slowed down to run with me and act as my pacer. They sacrificed their own time and their own run to help and encourage me and to me that’s what Parkrun is all about. People helping people and people encouraging people to challenge themselves.
What are the biggest barriers for plus sized women? For me it was fear. Fear I’d be laughed at, fear I’d fail, fear I’d just be too bloody fat and unfit to do it. I’m still scared of those things but I’m lucky to have support around me to shake off the bad runs.
Aside from that I find it annoy how hard it is to find kit. When I started running I was a size 18/20 and I found that most kit went to XL which was more like a 14 or 16. How can we expect plus sized people to try and get fitter and healthier if they can’t even get hold of a pair of trousers or a t-shirt that doesn’t fit in a comfortable and flattering way that can be brought at an affordable price. I run in Karrimor leggings in an XL which are a size 16 and 18 at most but most of the big running brands I didn’t stand a chance with.
What would you say to other runners just starting out? Just go. Even if you find a local field and try running for 30 seconds that still counts. Most of the people you meet will be helpful and encouraging – yes there are a few idiots who think they are funny but they are everywhere aren’t they?! You can do it and the first time you run for 30 seconds of 10 seconds you’ll be so so proud of yourself. If you are in doubt just look online for some inspiring stories and you won’t be able to help think of them when you are trotting around. When I get tired and want to stop I think of those who can’t run but would love to – who am I to waste the gift of an able body and the freedom my country has given me as a woman to be able to run wherever I like when so many people don’t have that same chance. It keeps me motivated.
Get a good sports bra if you have boobs, don’t run more than a few times before getting your gait tested and buying a good pair of shoes and don’t forget to look up. If you look down all the time because you are afraid to look around you’ll not only mess up your technique and make the physical act of running harder for yourself but you’ll miss out on seeing all the encouraging and smiling faces you could come across.
What have you learned about yourself through running? I’m tougher than I thought I was.
Indeed, we think you are pretty awesome Jenny
Do you know someone who should feature here next month? If so send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with runner of the month in the subject line