I’m an ordinary woman, but very occasionally, I feel extraordinary – after a week of hard training, or when I’ve completed a big race, or got up and met some friends for a freezing cold swim in the sea at 6am.
I think I’ve always been an endurance woman. As a child I loved to push myself running or swimming further and faster, climbing trees higher, staying out to play later. When I was six years-old I set myself the challenge of swimming 100 lengths of the outdoor pool at the Hotel Hermanus in Winterton near Great Yarmouth, as my dad lay on the lounger and counted for me. Soon after I was doing backward dives off the top board at Amersham swimming pool and had ambitions to go higher at the 40ft board in Galway (but somehow mum and dad distracted me). There were some blips along the way, you can read my story here.
My career is driven by my passions. For more than 20 years my work in content and communications focussed on health, fitness and sport. For 10 of these years I worked as a personal trainer and coach. Endurance is in my DNA (literally) and I’ve run over 20 marathons with most success in my 40s when I ran 10 under 3.30 and five under 3.15; I’ve competed in ultra events and triathlon and at my best I’ve been competitive for my age.
Approaching a new age category
As I got closer to the big 5-0 I realised what I’ve gained from this passion is so much more than times to be proud of: I’ve made great friends; had amazing experiences and I’ve learnt all there is to know about myself and what I’m capable of. So, at the end of 2017, as the big day loomed, I decided it was time to create Endurance Women and consolidate what I’ve learnt as a coach, content provider, and story-teller.
Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary
First, I wanted to share the stories I hear every day of ordinary women being extraordinary. Each woman I’ve spoken to has an amazing story to tell. Jane went from feeling a bit fat and unfit at 40 to winning Ironman Kona (the competition for the world’s best age-group triathletes); business owner, Joanne, a 49-year-old mum of three, didn’t let blood cancer and persistent injury get in the way of her aspirations to race long; Buggy-miles Becci, a new mum of two and general hospital Sister, transformed her local park-run into a fundraising event for the local hospice; and of course, The Guardian‘s very own Running Blog Editor, Kate Carter, mum of two young girls who took just six years to go from starting running to completing a sub-three hour marathon.
Endurance Women are Pioneers
All endurance women are pioneers. We’re the first generation of women to push our endurance boundaries, and to take on challenges like these. And the further we go in distance, the closer we get to being on a par with men, as we’re more efficient at burning fat and stamina is one of our strengths. But in the year I was born (1967), the general consensus was that women were too ‘fragile’ to run a marathon. Kathrine Switzer proved this was not the case, by being the first women to officially enter and complete the Boston Marathon. She was famously man-handled by the race manager, who tried to pull her out of the race but went on to finish the in 4.20 and is celebrated as an advocate for positive change and the founder of 261 Fearless, an organisation that uses running to empower and unite women. Read her story here.
We are strong!
We must not underestimate our strength. When we set a goal and achieve it whether it be going from couch to 5K like many of our community, or taking on a seven-day treadmill challenge like ultra-runner, mother and grandmother, Mimi Anderson (story coming soon), we’re making an impact and forcing positive change. As we share our fundraiser pages, our success stories, our smiling race-face pics and medals on social media, the movement gathers momentum, and the ripples of positive energy become a tidal wave of change.
The power of Endurance Women
When we stretch ourselves through sport – physically, emotionally and mentally – there is power. And endurance is a pathway to a very big positive change for women individually, and collectively for society. From interviewing ordinary women being extraordinary and from my experience as an endurance athlete, I’ve seen that when we come out of our comfort zone we unleash an inner strength and great things happen. When women push limits the effect in the world is a little different to when a man does this. Women are at the core of creating families, and making change happen from the inside out. This can be catalyst for a powerful movement, creating healthier homes in the workplace and going beyond boundaries both physical and metaphorical – ultimately creating a stronger and happier society where we don’t just live long (kept alive by modern medicine) but we live well.
A Growing Movement
As the community of endurance women grows in numbers, I’m inspired and can’t wait to see what comes next. It’s easy to take for granted that every time we push a little more, when we put on our Lycra, get muddy, and celebrate crossing a finish line the impact we’re having. Each step forward is a step away from self-imposed limitations (and excuses) of age, time, family, work.
I’ve focussed on women, but I believe all of us can be more successful in life if we adopt the qualities of an endurance athlete: never giving up, staying in the moment, keeping positive, setting goals, and supporting each other.
Join us and set your next challenge. Be at the start line. Celebrate on the finish line.