Mum is one of the reasons that, all being well, by the time you read this I will be running the London Marathon in my underwear with my friend, the model Jada Sezer. Growing up, I remember Mum and her friends always talking about the latest diets – they were so fretful about their weight.
When I reached adolescence and began worrying about the way I looked, Mum told me endlessly that I was beautiful. But this stuff is ingrained in us as women, isn’t it? We have to stay aesthetically pleasing to stay relevant. Our mothers were taught this. Their mothers were taught this. And so on and so on…
My mother is beautiful, but she doesn’t believe it. She won’t let anyone know her age, because at some point a message was passed down to her that women lost any power when they passed a certain age. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of the generation who finally feel they can talk about mental health and body image.
I feel lucky to be part of the generation who can talk about mental health and body image
That I was born into this generation is nothing more than a fluke. But I’m going to ride that fluke, on behalf of all the women who didn’t get the chance to speak out about the shame they were made to feel about their bodies. I’m running this marathon in my undies for people like my mum, so that girls like my daughter know that there is not just one way to look.
There will be chafing. There will be derogatory comments. But what does any of that matter if even one woman realises that fitness is for all?
Running has helped my mental health in ways I could never have imagined. The physical effects – being able to run a marathon, for example – are just a bonus.
Jada and I will be running for Heads Together, the charity set up by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to help change the conversation about mental health. If you wanted to donate even 10p, we would be eternally grateful.
This time last year I was absolutely terrified about Bryony’s insistence on running the London Marathon. Supposing she dropped out, or collapsed, or suffered some horrible injury somewhere along that interminable route? I just couldn’t quite believe that my little girl – in the space of seven months – could really go from occasionally running 26 yards for a bus to running 26.2 miles for Heads Together.
This year is completely different in that I have no concerns about her reaching the end point at Buckingham Palace in one piece. No, my worry this year is the fact that she will reach the end point at Buckingham Palace in two pieces – just a bra and a pair of knickers.
It is a concern that I am doing my best to overcome before I join the cheering throngs who will line the roads today. After all, it isn’t as if my daughter and her NBFF Jada will be running in their underwear for anything but the right reasons. The bold, beautiful Gutsy Girls (as they are calling themselves) are doing it to inspire curvier girls, to prove that exercise is for everyone and that all bodies are different.
My concern, I realised during a phone call with Bryony the other day, has nothing to do with what the two of them are doing to raise money, and everything to do with my own pathetic horror of being caught by anyone, anywhere (particularly Buckingham Palace) in my underwear.
‘Mum,’ she asked me in a slightly nervous voice, ‘are you really upset about what we are doing?’
‘Of course not, darling! People run the Marathon in far more outrageous outfits – one woman last year ran dressed as a toilet roll. It’s just so, well, very BRAVE,’ I replied in my jolly-and-reassuring Mum voice, not quite daring to add, ‘but what if your bra strap snaps?’
The truth is I would be cheering them on and madly, madly proud of Bryony and Jada if they were running the Marathon stark naked. Although, Gutsy Girls, please don’t take that as a challenge for next year…
To donate, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/gutsygirls