I’m not a film critic or a writer but just over a week ago I saw the film, Brittany Runs a Marathon and I’ve felt compelled to write about it ever since. After the showing of the film by the Reclaim the Frame project at the Everyman cinema in Newcastle I appeared on a panel, talking about my thoughts on the film and how it related to my own story. I didn’t say everything I wanted to say. It’s only as the days have passed and I’ve been able to think about nothing else that I really felt I wanted and needed to say more.
I thought I’d seen films like this before. You know the ones I mean, where against all odds the main character battles through everything the world throws at him/her and reigns supreme. I knew the film had some elements of that as well as comedy and feel good factor and I settled down with a box of tissues expecting a couple of hours of light entertainment, nothing more nothing less.
But, this film stirred a whole host of emotions in me, some of which had been lying dormant for years. These Girls Can Run gives me a platform to encourage body positivity, to persuade ladies away from comparison and to use running as a positive influence in their life when it comes to physical and mental health. It’s a voice I don’t always listen to myself and I’m sure many of the messages I’ve given you, you’ve heard before right? You listen, but you don’t necessarily apply.
Where Brittany started her running journey with “one block” many of us started with one lamppost. Like Brittany, many of us, including me, started in an old pair of jogging pants, a baggy hoodie and an old, battered pair of trainers or gym shoes which were totally unsuitable for running but, like Brittany, we started.
Yet, how many of us, like Brittany have listened to friends, family or colleagues dismiss our running as “jogging” or listened to them talk about this and that person they know who is a “proper” runner. How many of us use that language ourselves, starting our sentences with the words “I’m not a runner”...?
As we watch Brittany begin to use running as a form of control and punishment, how many of us can relate? Those mornings and evenings stepping on and off the scale, counting calories burned vs calories eaten, standing in front of the mirror scrutinising every single part of our bodies with a critical eye whilst missing the point of the progress we are making, always striving for more, always striving for perfection.
Like Brittany how many of us let social media and the toxicity it sometimes brings, bring us down. We withdraw from it without countering that withdrawal with some real human contact - reaching out to a friend on the phone, reaching out to a friend for a coffee, asking quite simply for a hug.
Brittany runs a Marathon speaks louder than I ever can on some of the issues we talk about within our community. It talks to us in a way which I think each and every one of us can relate to and that is why I encourage you to go and see it. I also encourage you to take time afterwards to really reflect on how much you actually apply the lessons we try to teach within our community. I don’t mean just commenting on our posts, but actually doing something every day to be kind to yourself whether through your own inner dialogue or the way you view and treat your body.
Despite all of this, Brittany Runs a Marathon IS ultimately a story of hope and a lesson to us all that of all of the kindness we show to others, at least some should be reserved for ourselves.
It’s a reminder to give ourselves permission to look at our bodies with gratitude and kind eyes, to step away from the scales and to run only to feel the air in our lungs and a feeling of freedom. It’s a gentle nudge not to give in to the pressures of social media, not to define our worth by the number of likes, comments, followers our posts bring. It urges us to seek out real human contact and comfort from the people around us who genuinely care.
Most importantly, it tells us to take a deep breath and start, or start again, whatever marathon in life you are facing.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is currently showing in some cinemas, and will be available on Amazon Prime from 22nd November 2019.
To find out more about the Reclaim the Frame project please click:
So, the obligatory start-line selfies have been taken, you’ve had 23 visits to the portaloo and the gun has gone off. Here's the final instalment of our Preparing for Events series written by one of our fabulous Run Group Leaders, Deborah Ashley with all you need to know about safely getting to the finish line, and what to do once you’re there!
1. Stay alert at all times, you may not be on a familiar path or road. Keep watch for drain covers,manhole covers, potholes, curbs and street signs.
I once saw a runner take himself out of the race within 100 meters of the start, he was fiddling with his watch and ran smack into a road sign knocking
2. Can I get lost? Unlikely! There are marshals all around the course. They will keep you right, and just
follow everyone else, you probably are not going to be right at the front blazing the trail!
3. Can I walk if I need to? Of course you can, you’ll see many runners walking at times. If the path is very busy, try to move over to the left hand side to allow people to overtake you safely. If you can get onto the pavement, walk there, leaving the road for runners.
4. Is there a cut off time? Yes there will be, they can’t keep the roads closed indefinitely. You’ll be told
the cut off when you enter the race, and it will be stated in your race pack. If you are at the back
you’ll see the sweepers – the road sweepers cleaning the roads and pavements ready for road re-
opening. There will be at least one marshal at the back, and they will advise what to do if you are
slower than the sweepers. Sometimes you’ll be taken out of the race, sometimes they will let you
walk on the pavement.
5. What about water? Most races of 10km and above will have regularly spaced water stations along the
route. You may get a bottle, cup or squidgy pouch of water. Be careful around the water stations, the
ground will be saturated by spillage. For at least 1km after a water station the path will be littered
with discarded containers. Take great care not to trip or slip on these. If you are going to throw away
a container, try to throw it to the side of the road, not drop it right in the path of other runners.
6. Some runs that take place in hot weather will provide cooling shower sprays. This might be a tunnel
of fine mist to run through, or it might be a fireman with a hose! If it is very hot take advantage of
these but be careful as it may be slippy. Make sure your phone is protected against the water.
7. What if I get an injury or feel unwell? All events have marshals who can help you with first aid or can
summon a paramedic for you. If you are in trouble, find the nearest one, or ask a runner to find one
for you. The runners who’ll be alongside will help you I promise. Please be aware that roads have
been closed, or you may be on part of the route that is off road, so it can take time for a vehicle to
reach you. The officials will prioritise life threatening cases for ambulances or air ambulance so be
patient. They will do everything they can to make you comfortable and help you to contact anyone
who is waiting for you. Large events have first aid tents along the way, or mobile medics on bikes who
can help you with bandages for cuts, grazes or blisters. I’ve even seen them painting people with
camomile lotion for bad sunburn!
8. At the finish, well done, you’ve done it! Keep walking, you’ll be funnelled to the area to collect your
medal and goody bag. Please make sure you collect the shirt in the size you ordered. Don’t take a
different size. There is nothing worse for a slower finisher to find that only XS or XXL shirts are left
when they ordered a Medium.
9. Find your supporters or go and find the baggage buses. They can be a bit of a walk, but that’s good, it’s cooling your tired muscles down. Large events have a runner village, with food outlets, sometimes a beer tent, and other concession stands, take a bit of time to explore.
10. As I’ve already said it can take time to get home. Public transport will be busy, you’ll have to queue.
Roads will be busy with everyone leaving car parks at the same time. If you can find somewhere to go
for a couple of hours until the rush dies down that’s a good option, but bear in mind everyone else
had the same idea! Put your warm top on and raid your goody bag for snacks and drinks!
We hope this has been a useful insight into a typical race day. The main thing is to enjoy it! I promise you will be buzzing for days after a race and there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll be signing up for another!
So race day has finally arrived. You may have had a sleepless night but you've had your porridge now and there's no turning back. Here's Part Two of our Preparing for Events series which has been put together by one of our fabulous TGCR Run Group Leaders Deborah Ashley. If you missed Part One you can find it here!
1. Arrive at the event as early as possible, especially if you want a car parking space, or before public
transport gets too busy. Getting there early removes stress, and gives you time to look around any stalls/stands which might be there.
2. Arriving early also gives you time to use the toilet. Portaloos and other toilets will be available at the
start and finish, and in longer races at certain points along the route. There are always long queues at
the start, so make sure you allow plenty of time to go before the race start.
3. If you don’t have a support crew waiting for you at the finish use the baggage storage or buses.Your finish bag may contain a change of clothing, at least a warm top, maybe a drink and some food. Don't put valuables in this bag or if you do, secure it with a lock of some kind. Make sure you put your baggage tag on it, this usually includes your race number. Make sure you know the cut off time for putting your bag on the bus, otherwise you are running with it!
4. You may find there is a lot of standing around time before the run starts. In summer make sure you wear sunblock, a hat, and use your buff to protect the back of your neck, you don’t want to suffer
heat stroke. If it's cold take an old top that you're happy to throw away.Charities will come and collect all the discarded clothing. Of course a highly fashionable black binbag with holes cut for your head and arms is useful too, especially if it is raining!
5. Larger events will have a staggered start, with the elite athletes setting off first so we don’t trip them
up! Your race number bib may be coloured, each wave has a colour. At the start area, you
will assemble into “pens” based on your wave colour. You might find your run buddy has a different
wave; do not go into a faster wave, your buddy can come back into a slower wave with you, but not
vice versa. At smaller events, there might not be waves or pens, everyone will just gather from the starting line so be sensible where you position yourself for the start.It's better to start further back, and gradually over take slower runners as you go.
6. Starting further back does no harm to your finishing time. There are two race times:
Gun time – this is the time the gun or hooter goes off to start the race
Chip time – this is the accurate time. Your timer starts when you cross the chip mat or strip and
finishes when you cross over the finish line. There may be an arch over the finish line showing a clock, don’t worry what that says, that is the time since the gun went off. In bigger events it can take some time to cross the start line so don't worry about the time shown here too much!
7. Make sure your bib is visible at all times. Official photographers will “tag” photos with your run
number. When you search for your photos, you will search using your number. Many people have
been disappointed that they couldn’t find any photos, this doesn’t mean none were taken, it just
means your number wasn’t clear, so you couldn’t be tagged in the photo.
Next time we’ll be focusing on what happens once you get over the start line and what’s likely to happen once you get to the other end!
Entering a race for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Will I finish it? Will I be too slow? Will I oversleep,miss the bus and miss the whole race?? All of these thoughts and a million others will go through your head. But, in fact, it’s the preparation you do long before the race starts that will help you feel more confident on the day and get you to the finish line with a smile on your face!
Here Deborah Ashley one of our TGCR Run Group Leaders shares her brilliant tips in the first of our three part series:
1. Your race pack will arrive a couple of weeks before the event, unless you entered an event very close
to the date. For late entry, you will be told where to go to sign in and collect your race number. Your
race pack will contain:
2. Make your travel arrangements to get to the event and home afterwards. For Great North Run you
can buy a travel pass wristband several weeks in advance, this saves you having to queue to buy a
3. Prearrange meet up points with your running buddies and support crew at the start and end. For
large events there will be thousands of people milling around, it isn’t easy to find people in that
crowd. There's pretty much always a These Girls Can Run meeting point so never fear!
4. Don’t rely on being able to use your phone to ring or text to find people. Great North Run is notorious
for total lack of phone signal, when you have 43,000 people all trying to use the same mast, it is going
to break! Text messages I sent at about 12:30 didn’t actually get delivered until 18:00!
5. Make sure you have ran at least once before in the clothing you intend to wear on race day, including your special charity race top if you have one. You need to check for rubbing and chafing in advance and apply Vaseline or other lube product to any sensitive areas. RULE NO. 1 NO NEW STUFF ON RACE DAY!
6. During your training test what you can eat before a race and how long before a race. You need to
know your safe breakfast (most events start in the morning). Make sure you have tested your water
strategy for long runs, and your energy refuelling foods many times so you know what works for you.
Do not be tempted by free samples of drinks or gels given away through the race. In large events like
GNR kind spectators will offer your sweets and drinks. Only take these if you know they are safe for
you. Don’t be undone by a jelly baby! RULE NO. 2 – REMEMBER RULE NO. 1!
7. Fill in all of the details on the back of your race number bib. These details are essential for the
emergency services should you get into difficulties.
8. Fasten your bib loosely to the front of your top with safety pins or your lovely TGCR race fasteners. Make sure the bib isn’t too tight and can move with your body. If it is too tight it will tear and may drop off you don’t want to miss out on a chip time or be pulled from the race!
9. Make sure your phone and your running watch are fully charged. Put your phone into a plastic ziplock
bag to protect it from rain or other liquids. Some inconsiderate runners throw water freely over themselves without thinking about you getting caught in the deluge!
Same time, same place next week for more!
I've recently discovered Pinterest and I must confess I'm completely hooked.
I've used it in my business to help with branding, goal setting and content creation but perhaps more powerful, on a personal level I've used it to create a vision board of all of my hopes and dreams for my future and my family's future.
Here at TGCR HQ you've probably noticed we love a good inspirational quote but quotes can be quite personal and what motivates me may not work for you. Today I want to show you how to create your very own personal motivational board to inspire your running. The bonus is you don't have to faff around with scissors, glue or magazines to create something really amazing.
So step by step here is all you need to do:
1) Visit http://www.pinterest.co.uk and click sign up to create your account
2) Select at least 5 things you're interested in - HINT running may be a good place to start!
3) Click on your name in the top right
4) Click Boards and then click the little plus sign to create your first board
5) Give it an inspiring name (check mine out above)
6) Choose whether you want to make your board public and share it with the world or keep it secret and for your eyes only
7) When you see something you love on Pinterest just click save in the top right hand corner to save it to your board.
There's so many brilliant pins on Pinterest so it's easy to get overwhelmed. My advice is to browse with your heart and save what really resonates with you. Think about what inspires you, where inspires you and what you would love to achieve. The best thing about Pinterest is via the app on my phone I can be transported to my happy place of hopes and dreams in one tap. Happy pinning!
Ps if you want to follow These Girls Can Run on Pinterest we'd love to see you! Just click https://www.pinterest.co.uk/thesegirlscanru/
Go and look in the mirror.
I struggled so much with this concept in the early days when I had just started out.
I never called myself a "runner". Despite having put aside all my awful memories of running at school to try again, despite having got out there on my own and progressed from zero to hero I still refused to call myself a "runner". If you'd asked me back then I would have squirmed, looked really awkward and uncomfortable and mumbled something along the lines of "well I'm more of a jogger really" "just the odd 5km" JUST? Really?
Why do we do that? Why do we refuse to own our achievements? Why do we belittle the amazing things we've done because we're worried we don't have the rights to the title of "runner", worried we don't fit the mould, worried if we say it out loud that might not be how others perceive us?
What we wear doesn't define whether or not we're a runner. Wobbly thighs,wobbly arms, curves and anything but a svelte frame again doesn't mean we can't call ourselves runners. What people think of us doesn't take away our right to call ourselves "runners"
In this photo I was just about to run my very first marathon in Edinburgh. I'd been running on and off for about 10 years but I still wouldn't have called myself a runner. It's written all over my face. I felt out of my depth and I laughed at myself for being so stupid to actually think I could run a marathon. But do you know what crossing the finish line isn't when I became a "runner". I didn't become a runner because I ran a marathon.
I became a runner the very first time I decided to give it a try. When I collapsed in a heap after thirty seconds because I couldn't breathe but I decided to stand up and try again, that was my defining moment.
You see the thing which defines you as a "runner" is the strength you have within. It's not what you wear or your body shape or even the number of races you enter, it's that moment when you don't give up and you try again.
So here is your new mantra for when the doubt creeps in "I AM A RUNNER"
Ps we'd love to hear about your defining moment. Pop over to the Facebook group and tell us all about it using the #iamarunner.