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I often find myself saying “you don’t have to be Fat” to be a supporter of our campaign, or even to take part in our virtual runs or workshops, so some of you may be looking at March’s runner of the month and thinking “She’s not fat”, but this lady is Fab and is a massive supporter of what we are doing so I reckon she deserves a special mention. I also think she illustrates that regardless of size we all have the same fears and insecurities as women, we just have to push through them and make the best of ourselves.

I met Maya Goodwin a few months ago at my Running Clubs weekly track session, she was tall like me and very friendly and we hit it off straight away. As a member of the club she is very active on their social media sites so it wasn’t long before she came across some of my blog posts, and we would often discuss our training runs while we warmed up each week. Maya is also training for the London Marathon…but this lady is super motivated and giving it absolutely everything she has, so I hope you enjoy finding out more about her.

So tell us a bit about you? Well I am Maya, aged 44 and I live in East London. I am currently a size 16. I started running after the birth of my first son in 2003. I wanted to get back in shape, and I used to run and do gym classes in my lunch hour.

Did you run a lot when you were younger? I remember doing cross country and hating it!

Unknown-1What do you love and hate about the sport of running? Hmmm. This is a tricky question. It’s all so intertwined. I hate race days. The early alarm. The nerves. The stodgy porridge. The nerves. Have I mentioned the nerves? I love race days. The feeling of achievement when you cross that line and knowing you pushed yourself. And the camaraderie of knowing everyone at the start line feels like you do. I hate the weather. The wind. The rain. The heat. Working out what to wear. That takes me AGES. But getting home after a long run in the driving rain and ridiculous wind. Knowing that you braved it anyway, and did it? The feeling of pride you have in yourself is pretty cool. I love that.

Do you parkrun? I LOVE PARKRUN. I’m lucky enough to live near a few, but my favourite is Wanstead Flats (which is my home run, although its a bit cross country so I am not there that often). It goes through the woods and it feels different every time you run it.

Have you taken part in any races? I’ve done quite a few. My favourites are:

The BUPA 10,000 I loved how it took you down the Embankment and finished down The Mall. I totally pretended I was Paula Radcliffe winning the marathon. I’m not joking. The support was great too.

Rugged Radnage A tough trail run in Radnage, really steep hills through the woods. But a gorgeous atmosphere. It’s run by the local PTA and you really get the feeling of the whole village getting behind the event. Great cakes too.

National Lottery Olympic Park Run. I love the Olympic Park. Being able to run round it is a real joy. It finishes in the stadium again this year, what a thing to be able to say you have done – run on the same track as Mo Farrah!

Have you had any negative experiences whilst out running? I have had the usual ones that we all get – where you just want to stop and cry, and walk home. But I think those are the ones you learn to chalk up and try again tomorrow.

What are your biggest concerns about being a plus sized runner? I hate the fact that I never seem to get any faster! I’m going to really focus on speed after the marathon.

What is your ultimate running goal and whats stopping you from getting there? My ultimate goal, for about 15 years, has been to run the marathon. The thought that I will be doing it in 26 days terrifies the life out of me! Then my goal is to get to a 27 minute park run. I think the wine I have on a Friday night is what stops me!

What kind of distances do you run in training? I currently run 4 times a week. At the moment I’m training for the London marathon, so the distances are getting a bit crazy. I have a 20 mile run planned for Wednesday. Eek. But I used to go out for 4-5 miles.

Why did you decide to run a marathon? My friend Jo and I have been avid spectators every year since the 90’s, shouting ourselves hoarse. Every year we said to each other, ‘one day we’ll run it, one day…’ And then in 2013, after the Boston bombing, we decided to actually do it, the year we both turned 45. Call it my midlife crisis!

How is your marathon training going? Training for your first marathon is almost surreal. The long runs have taken my mind and body to places they’ve never seen before. I’m up to 20 miles, and I’m kind of in awe of myself. I’m tired, physically and emotionally, and I’m looking forward to the taper in a couple of weeks. But… I feel like I need more time, I don’t feel like I’m ready yet! Talking to the more experienced marathon runners in my club though, I’m told feeling like this is totally normal and part of it! My main aim for the day is to get round and appreciate every single moment of it all. And to know that I have respected the distance and trained for it.

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 think Parkrun is an incredible movement, that’s helped a lot. And I think the local Spen20 incident when they turned a woman home for being too slow highlighted to clubs that more women who are not speedy club runners, want to be involved. Athletics and running clubs need to feel more inclusive. But it’s difficult as someone needs to take ownership of the ‘beginners’.

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My running club, East London Runners, is really inclusive, and welcomes everyone at all levels, particularly at the track sessions. I like the track sessions as you never feel like you’re last running round a track. You also get the camaraderie as you’re all running close together. I’m in awe of the speedsters as they whizz past me, but I don’t feel slow, or no good, as we are all doing it together. I realized that they are finding it as hard as I am, but just faster!

My club also has a regular weekly club run of about 5-6 miles. They have a tail runner for the slowest (normally me!) But 5 miles seemed really daunting for new runners who are unsure of their ability. So Julie and I will be starting a beginners run in May, of 5k, with the back marker going as slow as the slowest runner. The aim being to increase your confidence so that at the end of the summer you can move up to the 5 mile route. The confidence you get from belonging to a running club should never be underestimated, and it’s about somehow getting that out for the more nervous runner to see.

What are the biggest barriers for plus sized women? Feeling like you are always going to be last.

What would you say to other runners just starting out? Just try it. Genuinely, what’s the worst that can happen? You walk after 20 seconds? That’s ok, next time, you’ll walk after 30. And before you know it… You’ll be printing out your Parkrun barcode, and working out how long till you can get your 50 tee shirt! (4 more runs for me, in case you were interested!)

What have you learned about yourself through running? That my body will do what I tell it to. But sometimes I have to yell at it a bit!

Recently you helped out at our 10 mile training day how did you find the experience I loved it. I learnt so much and loved encouraging people to run outside their comfort zone, and seeing how they realised they could do so much more than they thought they were capable of. I’m currently looking into courses where you learn to lead a running group. We have a few of these training days coming up, check out dates here

Has the Fat Girls Guide to Running helped you in any way, if so how? Yes definitely. Meeting Julie has been a real inspiration. She has helped me change the way I look at running. I don’t feel like I’m the only one out there, and she has helped me see that with a bit of determination, we all can do it. Don’t give up!

Well I am incredibly inspired by Maya and would like to thank her for all her support over the last few months, her cheery disposition and positive attitude has really helped me with my confidence and also my training. Its funny last week Wednesday we passed each other while on a morning training running, we were on opposite sides of the road, she was wearing one of our striking don’t judge just run blue tees so I spotted her a mile off, we waved, grinned and simply carried on, a sign that we are both taking our marathon training quite seriously at the moment. 

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