Ele Mahmoud on why running is for every body

·2-min read

Ele Mahmoud believes that running media and marketing needs more average-looking runners, as well as a greater representation of different types of people. ‘The motivation should be to genuinely reflect society rather than tick diversity-criteria boxes,’ she says. ‘We still see “types” of bodies and “types” of people doing different sports on television, advertising and social media, which is fascinating. There’s been a shift in increasing how we show different sizes, shapes and backgrounds in sport but we have a long way to go.’

Mahmoud’s running journey began in 2019 after she gained a charity place for the London Marathon. Despite being fairly happy in herself, her body and her fitness levels, having done gym work previously, she still felt “average” in terms of her body, size and fitness. ‘This isn't a criticism of myself, but more that I rarely saw “people who looked like me” – ie an average UK woman – in ads or on social media.’

This in turn leads to a constant comparison game that most runners have to deal with. ‘I didn't feel like I had a “runner’s body” – I have hips, big boobs, relatively short legs and not that “gazelle-like” image that lots of “runners” are made out to have. It takes a strong mindset to get over that hurdle and appreciate the benefits of running for what it does for you rather than thinking about other people or what you should or shouldn't do, look like or feel like.’

The 30-year-old runner became involved in the online running community last year after setting up her own blog and Instagram accounts. She immediately found that there were unexpected positives in seeing normal people doing what she liked doing. ‘I got to see people who were incredibly fit running ultramarathons, but also a mother with four children completing her Couch to 5K programme, or someone who’d recently completed chemotherapy, or someone who was also training for their first ever race. It was real and it was relatable.’

Mahmoud has now run two marathons and raised £3,000 for charity, but, most importantly for her, she’s found it’s completely changed her as a person. ‘Running has made me confident, it’s made me strong and fit. It's allowed me to appreciate my body, my legs, my heart, my determination. I can dig deep. I can push harder. I can smile while I run. And none of this is about having a runner’s body. I'm strong and healthy and it's not about my weight, or the size of my legs, or how having big boobs is a factor for women running. It’s a clarity and confidence that is new and that I completely attribute to running.’

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