In four weeks, I intend to be pleasantly full of chips and enjoying the Brighton sunshine from a very sitting down position with my lovely posse. I hope to be doing those things with a new shiny piece of bling around my neck, but let’s not count our chickens and all that.
A thing that happened while I was beginning my marathon training was the launch of the fabulous campaign from Sport England, “This Girl Can”. The purpose of it was to address the fear of judgement that women told Sport England was their biggest barrier to joining in sport and athletic activities: fear of being judged for not being the right shape or the right size, or for not being “fit”, or for not being skilled enough. The first campaign video aired on ITV in early January. The original version of it alone has been viewed seven and a half million times on YouTube. It’s the first sporting campaign I’ve ever recognised myself in.
The video is brilliant, by the way. It’s full of sweat and messy hair and hard work and unairbrushed bodies and real people. Go on, watch it. I’ll wait.
Don’t get me wrong — the Olympics are amazing and being in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games was amazing and I have BBC Sport open in a browser window permanently for the whole of Wimbledon, but no matter what I tell myself when I’m running down a finishing straight with Chariots of Fire playing in my head I am not really an Olympian.
Let me tell you a secret, Internet. I am not a natural athlete. I am slow and I am not coordinated. I would have failed PE, if there had been grades for it (and half my life later, a good run is still a little bit of a screw you to all the PE teachers who ever told me I was no good). I started running when I did the Couch-to-5K program in the first year of medical school, and the first time I ran twenty minutes without stopping I put my foot down a pothole on the Saltmarket outside a pub on a sunny summer weeknight where fifteen people saw and my glasses fell off. I sweat and I grunt and I hurt and my ponytail falls out. I run a 10 minute mile on a very good day. I work very hard for it.
But these women? I am these women.
I have taken from this campaign my mantra and my hashtag for the last three months. 12 mile run? 10 minute mile? A couple of miles after work in pelting rain and gale force wind? #thisgirlcan.
I am in no way confident about what I’ll be able to do in four weeks time. It is almost a year since I signed up for this madness. I live somewhere between excited and terrified and convinced that I must have been actually mad. I’m going to do my damndest though.
All images are copyright Sport England 2015.