This Girl Can

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 18.42.19

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 19.52.55But 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.

Because: #thisgirlcan.

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All images are copyright Sport England 2015.

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4 comments

  1. This is so encouraging, well done :-)

    Your post completely sums up how I feel about the #thisgirlcan campaign. I very rarely run, but I swim for pleasure & for exercise. One of their pictures says “I swim because I love my body. Not because I hate it”. I’ve played that in my brain during those difficult few minutes between getting my costume on and getting into the pool, and it has helped enormously.

  2. Thanks for this, Beth. I’m a civil engineer, so this girl appreciates any opportunity to change general stereotypes towards women in either engineering or sport! I also learned to run using Couch to 5k, having spent most of my life believing I would never be able to run since I developed asthma at the age of 7. I’ve since found I can work up to it, and I even enjoy it! Going home after an hour of Fit Steps or another class makes me feel amazing for the rest of the day.

  3. I’m proud of you – and I don’t imagine I would consider you slow or uncoordinated (I have seen you run for a train AND swing that thurible, after all – if that doesn’t take coordination, rhythm… practice…) but I like to imagine myself joining that vast, sweaty sisterhood of the jiggling as well. Eventually I’ll get over myself and take it off the treadmill and into the great outdoors.

    Rock on, runner-girl. ♥

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