I have a runner’s body. And if you run, so do you.

I’m part of a very motivating, caring and diverse tribe of female runners online and there have been some comments coming through recently about how some of them have been told they don’t have ‘a runner’s body’. It got me thinking about what a runner’s body is and what it means to have one.

There really is only two criteria you need to fulfil. Do you run? Yes. Do you have a body? Yes. Then you have a runner’s body. It’s that simple. There are no required measurements, no genetic markers, no visible indicators that will tell you whether you have a body that can run. The only way to know whether you have one is to run. Can you? Then congratulations, you have a runner’s body.

I know I’m making light of this but it really is an exceptionally serious concept. I was told by various individuals throughout life what my body was and was not capable of. All of those comments ate away at my self esteem and contributed to how I viewed myself and what I was capable of. However I was fortunate enough to have others in my life who also planted different, more productive seeds.

One was my PE teacher, Mrs Jackson. I was not a star student in PE. I’d got it into my head that, as part of a rather unathletic family, I too was destined not to be successful in this area. I made a comment along those lines before a fitness test in Year 8 and she tore it down, telling me that it wasn’t my body letting me down but my mind and if I wanted to achieve in PE, I could. As proof, she nudged, pushed and cajoled me through my fitness test and I achieved a B, a huge improvement on the D I’d received in every other test. While I didn’t continue to push myself in sport as a teenager, that seed stayed with me and is something I still hold onto – I can do it, if I choose to.

I’m grateful for the confidence I’ve nurtured as an adult so that ill informed and potentially destructive comments now merely sting and don’t crush me. A physio once told me that my injured leg was caused by the fact that I continued to run despite not having a body built for running. I didn’t bother to ask him what one of those looked like or where I could get one, I just found a physio that didn’t have such a limited view of the world.

Recently, seeking advice after spraining my ankle, a doctor told me that people of my size needed to be very careful if they were going to run as injuries like this were more likely to happen. I’m not sure how injuries like ‘falling in a hole’ (which is how I sprained my ankle) happen more to people ‘of my size’ – do people who weigh less float over the top of them? Telling him that it was lucky he hadn’t told me that before running my marathon shut him down pretty quickly.

Ultimately, the truth is simple – I have a runner’s body. I know this because it has carried me over short and long distances for the last four years. It ran a marathon. The day after it had run a half marathon. It ran over 1000km last year. People who walk past me on the street or see me in work clothes may not realise that it’s a runner’s body as they don’t see me run but it doesn’t change the type of body I have. We have to make sure we all call people out who perpetuate the myth about needing to look a certain way to be considered an athlete. As Kelly Roberts says, strength doesn’t look a certain way, it feels a certain way. And, sprained ankle aside, I feel strong enough to get ready for marathon #2.

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parkrun tourism @ mount beauty

There are many people who love parkrun. People who happily spend their Saturday mornings running, walking or volunteering at their local event. And then there’s a whole other level of parkrun craziness – people who are willing to undertake an 800km round trip to attend the launch of a new event. 8 hours of driving to run 5km. Yep, that’s us.

We headed to Mount Beauty last night, arriving late however being able to get up at 7am actually felt like a sleep in for a Saturday so this morning wasn’t too much of  a strain. We easily found our parkrun venue with flags up and people milling about, as well as the familiar apricot of the parkrun tourist ‘uniform’ as it has come to be known. We weren’t the only ones to have travelled silly distances and it was great to catch up with the usual launch crowd who I’m so pleased to now call friends.

The location of this parkrun, at the Mount Beauty pondage, is stunning, surrounded by picture perfect mountains which are reflected in the water. This was matched this morning with perfect Autumnal weather complete with blue skies and only clouds of the fluffy white variety.

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We were welcomed by the Territory Director and co-Event Director who kept the briefing short and had us at the start line perfectly on time. As expected due to its geographical location, the crowds were a little smaller than other launches we’ve attended however it was great to see the support from locals, most of which had never attended a parkrun before. That’s one of my favourite things about attending launches – being there to welcome a new batch of initiates to the parkrun family, especially those for whom the whole concept is new.

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And, with no further ado, we were off. The course is flat and when I say flat, I mean ‘as a pancake’. It is also ridiculously easy to follow – it is an out and back course which heads around the pondage to a turn around point very near to the start line….where you then turn around and run back the other way. Before we started, I wondered how interesting I’d find the course as you can pretty much see it all from the start line. As you run, however, you get different perspectives and see different things so it kept me happily distracted. The views as you run are breathtaking, a bit like running alongside a movie set and the light fog wisping around the scene added extra dramatic touches (as if it needed any). The surface is concrete which isn’t my favourite but the sides of the path are more forgiving so I veered to them whenever possible.

I was running pretty well today and the 5km seemed to fly by. Heading back into my last kilometre, my husband had run out to join me which was lovely and probably accounted for my slightly increased speed at the end. I was really happy to cross the line in my 2nd quickest 5km time ever. My husband had also reached his goal – his first sub-30 minute 5km so it was smiles all around.

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We breakfasted at a lovely little cafe in town, Seasons, who were very accommodating (as we were moving tables around to fit everyone in) and served up quick and tasty breakfasts all round.

A big well done to the event team at Mount Beauty for getting their local parkrun up and running (pun intended) and for a very successful launch. I’m absolutely sure this one will be a favourite amongst roving parkrunners – that combination of stunning views and the feeling of adventure in trekking away from population centres will be a hard one to resist 🙂

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