I started running ten years ago when I was 27 and it was transformative. Running changed how I saw myself and I wish I had found it sooner. In trying to understand my own relationship with running, I've started to ask other women about theirs and the challenges they face. The "Why She Runs" series is mainly to satisfy my curiosity but I hope that by sharing experiences, more women will feel at home in the sport.
First up, Rebecca Taylor, the Women's Brand Executive at Soar Running and devoted member of the Mornington Chasers. No pressure, Rebecca!
How did you get into running?
Though I enjoyed a little bit of running at school, I didn’t do any sport or activity for about 25 years after I left. I’d hit 40, I’d had my two sons, was overweight and my family history was rife with diabetes. When a mate asked me to join her in a fitness class on Hampstead Heath, I went along to ‘support her’ but surprised myself by starting to get into the running part. I was hooked, I liked being outdoors and feeling the wind in my hair. She accidentally created a monster! Now I even work in running as all things SOAR Women.
What were the barriers that stopped you from running before you got into it?
I didn’t identify as a physical or sporty person. Also, I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle and I didn’t allow myself the time or space to consider it. In my 20s I smoked like a chimney and though I changed in my 30s when I went on to have my family, I couldn’t understand why I would want to do something I perceived to be so hard and uncomfortable. Another thing was that it felt so hard to know where to start, the task seemed too enormous.
Do you think running has changed the way you view your body? And has the way you eat changed to ensure you're fuelling your body to work?
I used to view my body as a means to transport my brain from place to place! Sounds corny but now I think of my mind as a tool for realising the potential of my body. Running has allowed me to love my body for its strengths.
I’ve always tended to eat what I fancy and for enjoyment, I have never restricted or overthought food. As a long-distance runner (and particularly if I’m marathon training), I do give it a bit more thought to make sure I get enough proper food in. You need to eat to train and potatoes are definitely the foundation of my Sunday long runs. A decent and varied diet helps stave off illness, injury and slower race times. I’m a fan of the simple stuff we all know works.
What do you think would encourage more women to run?
As part of product development at SOAR we regularly speak to women about all aspects of running. I hear time and again that women are limited by safety concerns, time constraints and worries about being able to even do it.
The dream would be more available time, readily available childcare and freedom for everyone to run without fear. I’ll start the ball rolling with supportive communities, both physical and digital. Groups of people with whom you can share your journey can be hugely motivating and supportive. I was terrified that I would be surrounded by intimidating groups of competitive uber athletes when I joined my local running club. Instead, I found a beautiful group of people who shared my passion, loved the odd post run pie and a pint and helped keep me progressing through my running with their knowledge and enthusiasm.
Do you think male runners have a part to play in welcoming more women to the sport?
A lot of the sport is male-heavy, especially in traditional racing and clubs. Men can make women welcome by recognising and celebrating their differences, participation and achievements. Too many times first lady is swallowed up by a sea of men and not acknowledged and sometimes women aren’t even represented in race marketing material. Show women they are part of the fabric of running. (I love the work that Sophie Power from SheRACES is doing to level the start line in this area.)
My male running friends are some of my best training partners and cheerleaders, and I really value their support and banter. They make running more fun and keep me turning up for Sunday long runs without a doubt.
What do you think we can do to support girls running?
Ruby Woolfe, one of SOAR Women's collaborators, a fantastic runner and English teacher, has a brilliant initiative at her school, where she takes a group of teen girls out for a chatty run each week - away from the stresses of school and boys. She’s fostering a community and created a space where the girls can enjoy each other’s company, gain fitness and run together without other social worries spoiling it. More like this please!
Do you consciously think about your safety when you're running?
Nothing much stops me from doing what I want, but yes, there are places I go in summer that I can’t in winter, for example I’d love to run on the Heath alone at night like some of my friends do but I don’t feel able to. All my SOAR kit has room for a phone in the back, which most women I know carry on a run with them.
What would you tell your younger self about running now that you're in this space?
I've found a surprising place for you to channel your energy. It will make you feel great, bring you focus, great friends and foster personal and physical growth. Oh, and you’re going to do lots of your socialising between 6am and 8am, in random London parks, street and canals….
What running does for you in 3 words?
Keeps things progressing