Thank you for all your good wishes, Max and I are now all better again and I am back on track to take part in my 10k race tomorrow, although not as prepared as I would have liked. We will have to see if my legs are now just rested or a bit out of practice. To be honest, as long as my insides remain intact, that will be a win for me.
While I was poorly, I spent a lot of time online reading and was delighted to see that the UK initiative This Girl Can http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/ had expanded to develop a specific site and activities for This Girl Can Running http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/sport/running/. Developed in partnership with other organisiations, this initiative is headed by the publicly-funded Sport England. They have a TV advertising campaign which is very inspiring, have a look here http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/girls-who-can/ .
The tag line for This Girl Can is “Fear of judgement is stopping many of us from taking part in exercise.
But as thousands of women up and down the country are proving, it really doesn’t have to.”
Although I live in Ireland (and just to be clear, based on some recent incidents, The Republic of Ireland and the UK are two separate, independent countries and that is very important) thanks to the nice people at Sky TV , we can watch all the UK’s TV channels and so this campaign has also had an impact here. And I for one, am very, very glad. So much so I keep tweeting our Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, that Ireland needs a similar programme (if you would like to join me he is @campaignforleo).
This campaign has really touched a nerve in me. I am really good at many, many things but sport is not one of them and never has been. Now, even as I type this, I am questioning where that opinion of myself comes from – what benchmark am I using to say I am Not Good at Sport? The simple answer is largely the experiences of my childhood and what other people have told me. As a result, for years, I have hated all forms of team sports. I have enjoyed the activities you can do alone (swimming especially) and of course I mostly run alone. I have never been a member of a sports team. The idea of joining a running club fills me with dread because I feel I would be the slowest, holding everyone back and always coming in last.
That is exactly why #ThisGirlCan is so important. For the first time in my life (and I am not that young) someone has told me that its doesn’t matter if I am the slowest. It doesn’t matter if I come in last. Doing it is what matters and no one will point and laugh at me, and even if they do, it doesn’t matter. True empowerment. Although the campaign is directed specifically at women, the same message also needs to get out to all the men who have ever felt like me.
Sadly, its not just people of my generation that need this message either. On Monday, one of my children came home from school crying. During break time, another child had been making fun of them, laughing at the idea of my child playing rugby, saying they would be picked last and be no good at it. Different generation, same spiteful message.
Its true my child is not the most athletic and that’s fine, they have other talent and abilities that outshine many children. We walk together, do running intervals and swim. Unfortunately, the same ideas I have always held about my physical prowess have now been ingrained in my child. I will do my best to undo them and hope that my running will act as a role model because actions speak louder than words, but that is why #ThisGirlCan is so important.
One of my absolute delights at taking up running has been the message from the community online that everyone is welcome. I believe the Couch 2 5K/10k apps and Park Run movement play a significant role in this. If you are reading this and are afraid you are too old/fat/slow to run, or it is too late in life, or people will stare and laugh, then you are wrong. Do it anyway. I will see you at the back with the slow ones and we will run togther, not just for ourselves but for the generation we are raising. We will have great craic, running not racing!