The BIGGEST Lessons from the past decade
Said no teenager ever, when thinking about their career…
“When I grow up I want to become a plus size fitness blogger” lol
However growing up I did want to become a writer…I just never realised this would be the way I would achieve that.
My Great Uncle Les (my Nans brother) who was a journalist always used to say to me,
“If you want to be a writer you have to write”
Sadly he died before I launched the blog, and published my first book.
He taught me though if you want something you have to put the work in.
I started this blog in September 2010 after coming dead last in a race…I have told this story a million times, on live stages, on the TV and in newspaper articles all over the world.
I literally had to google “How to set up a blog” when I got started because I was that clueless.
At the time I was working in Local Government in a policy role helping London to prepare for the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic games.
I was not sporty, however.
I started writing about my experiences because I felt lonely. I started writing about being a “Fat” runner because so many funny, strange, weird and frustrating things kept happening to me.
I had already been running races for more than 5 years by the time I started writing the blog.
I thought writing the blog would help me become a better runner, a smaller person.
In fact, it did the opposite.
I saw improvements in my running for sure, I even almost managed a sub 30 minute 5K once…coming in 30.06 at Hackney Parkrun back in around 2016.
I ran 6 marathons, a 40 mile ultramarathon, did Triathlons, Tough Mudders, Climbed Mountains and all that jazz.
But becoming a better runner was never really the driver. I am a rubbish runner I am just very persistent.
I became a better person, not a better runner.
A stronger person.
And I became BIGGER…not in terms of my body (although the weight has been creeping up of late) but in terms of my outlook on and attitude to life.
My TEDx talk on the Fear of Judgement helped me to articulate what radical self-acceptance does for a woman….reminding myself that I am not what I look like, that my weight is not “All” there is to me…and that I don’t owe anyone anything in terms of my body size.
I never actually wanted to be the face (or body) of this brand.
When I made the decision to turn the blog (which was anonymous) into a business in 2013 after being made redundant from my job, a business expert told me it would be impossible to monetise without being front and centre of the brand, and over time I got used to the idea of being an “influencer”
I never got used to people hugging me because they had read one of my books…or the emails from people telling me how they had changed my life.
But I am grateful people did those things.
The running world is very different to the one that I started this blog in, the world is very different.
Things for women are harder than ever in my view. Especially plus-size women, especially middle aged women, of which I am proudly counting myself in that demographic.
I started this blog being a carefree 30 something, no kids no responsibilities, no real direction to where my life was going, and I close it as a parent, a writer of 12 books, an award-winning international speaker, and most importantly a Mum to the most amazing, body confident, sassy, astute 10 year old…who has been with me every step of this journey.
I was pregnant with Rose when I ran the London Marathon for the first time in 2012…although I didn’t know, it was only on my first recovery run a week or so later that I almost passed out, and then found out I was 6 or 7 weeks pregnant.
Rose has never known me to not be writing this blog.
“Who even are you mum if you are not running marathons”
But my marathon days are behind me.
London in 2020 was supposed to me my last one, as I built a team of 50 women who were going to run it with me…we all know how that ended.
Instead after contracting COVIF myself and ending up in hospital briefly, I embarked on my craziest plan ever, and took a small team out to West Africa to run the Sierra Leone Marathon…the single most amazing experience of my life.
An experience that made me question EVERYTHING, an experience that makes me more committed to fighting inequality and poverty than ever.
The pandemic caused so much damage in my community, to confidence levels, to our self-esteem, and the business (and maybe my motivation to keep fighting) if I am being honest never recovered.
I never set the business up to become a business, but after losing my job (pregnant with Rose) it seemed like a sensible step…and I have spent almost a decade committed to making it work commercially…investing so much of the income back into the business.
I just can’t do it any longer…not by myself.
I took a Job working for a change management company in Septmber, hoping that the security from that would enable me to run Too Fat to Run (the social movement) more like a side hustle or creative hobby…but alas I was made redundant 6 weeks ago, being owed 3 months of backpay.
And so the time has come.
I need to focus 100% on building myself back up, and making my new venture “The Year to Change” work…or finding myself a full-time job whichever it turns out to be.
I no longer have the time or energy it requires to hold space for people on the scale that I have done. To do the campaigning work, to do the overseas trips (which were always unpaid).
I get over 100 emails a day from PR companies and women from my community…very few of which lead to any kind of income, and that is just not sustainable.
In January 2020 we had 600 paying participants do our beginners programme, and this year we maxed out at 38.
Its sad, its frustrating, but it is also indicative of the current climate, and maybe even an indication that the running world has moved on and that the movement and the programmes I offered are not needed anymore.
What I have learned through this process though, is that there are things that are worth fighting for.
As a campaigner, a crusader for change you will find amazing people on your journey, likeminded individuals who will have your back.
I have seen so much kindness over the years.
The warmest of hugs, the deepest felt emails and messages on social media.
Although it sometimes feels like nobody really gives a shit…I know that is not true.
The blog has touched millions of lives.
I will never forget a lady at mile 22 of the New York City Marathon (who I had never met or even spoken to) standing with a “Go Julie, Go TFTR” sign.
Or the 9-year-old girl from Canada who chose to do a school project on me and body positivity.
Or the man I met at a race up north who asked if he could hug me, thanking me for helping him get his wife back (that sounds weirder than it actually was written out like this lol)
Or the lady I met in a lift in Orlando while there for a conference who was like “OMG IT’S JULIE CREFFIELD” and insisted she got a selfie.
So many stories, so many moments, where I am reminded of the good in the world, of the power to positively affect the lives of people with the power of your words, the power of your intention.
The world is a bit blase about blogs these days…and let’s face it AI could probably do a decent enough job writing my posts these days…but for those few years in the early days of this blog, it was truly magical.
And for that, I will always be truly grateful.
Ok so this has turned into a bit of an Oscars speech and my intention was simply to wrap things up with some overarching lessons.
- Be kind
- If you run, walk, jog or any version of that (AT ANY SPEED) you are a runner
- Your body is yours and yours alone…what you do with it, or how it looks is nobody elses business
- Be visible, don’t hide…we need to see all bodies being active and living their best life
- Be patient with yourself, change isn’t easy
- You are loved and you are not broken (even if you feel like you need fixing sometimes)
- Move as often as you feel capable of…most problems feel less problemy after a walk
- Write out your feelings, it helps even if you never share them
- Give people the benefit of doubt…maybe they are just having a bad day
- Give more than you take…people will always remember what you have done for them
I am working on a new business concept called The Year to Change, which helps ordinary people to do extraordinary things in their lives, in their businesses and in the workplace. I am currently in the pilot phase, validating ideas, securing the brand etc, and trying to raise enough money to live on.
And I am working on a new book which I hope will come out in January 2024
This blogsite will stay open as an archive, for as long as people find it and read it, and for as long as book sale revenue covers the costs of hosting it.
A few women from my community asked whether they could send me some money to thank me (which felt a bit weird) and so I have reopened my Ko.fi account, which was quite useful during the pandemic when so many of my income streams dried up.
I am having to learn to be open to receiving…and so this is probably the final lesson for me, allow people to say thank you Julie.
Words will never express how grateful I am for the past 12 years, for each and every person who has ever supported this work, bought a book, or a tshirt or taken part in one of my programmes. For the small number of brands that I worked with, for the PR companies that put me forward for press trips, for event organisors who booked me as a speaker. So many people over the years have helped me build this brand.
It is often said,
We overestimate wha we can do in a year, but we underestimate what we can do in ten
Here’s to the next 10 years…who knows where my feet, my heart, and my words will take me next
Join the TFTR newsletter to gain access to our exclusive Facebook running community, priority access to Limited Edition merch, inspiration and much more!