Running is for Every Body: Evie Butler

·3-min read

Evie Butler's body made her a target from a young age. ‘I have always been larger set, which meant I was the perfect target for bullies,’ she says. ‘It got to a stage where I stopped going to school because I just couldn’t face getting told I was fat. I have always referred to myself as large and quite often believed I was fat. I’m not, but living for years with those comments takes a massive toll on how you feel about yourself and your body image.’

Those negative feelings about her body made it hard for Butler, 26, to take her first steps. ‘I didn’t think my body was built for running,’ she says. ‘I have thighs, I have a belly, parts of me wobble with every movement and when I compared myself to the runners I saw in magazines and on TV, I didn’t think I looked like a runner. I thought I wouldn’t be accepted.’

An absolute determination to run a marathon saw Butler start clocking up the miles, but she still struggled to feel that acceptance. ‘In my first few years of running, I still never felt I belonged,’ she says. ‘I always needed to justify my body, justify my running and justify my races.’ It wasn’t simply a case of battling her own perceptions; like many others, Butler has had to battle against the misconceptions and prejudice of others.

‘I had a very rude doctor tell me to look for a different sport as I was too large for running (I was a size 12 at the time),’ she says. ‘Six marathons later, I think my body is fine! I still get negative comments on Instagram. One stands out particularly: “If you work out so much, why are you still fat?” Lots of people say, “You don’t look like a runner” or “You’re not exactly built like a runner.”’

For Butler, lack of representation of different body types is a big part of the problem. ‘It was a very white, slim, fast aesthetic for running magazines, websites and social media,’ she says. ‘How can we feel welcome, when brands/media aren’t willing to change? People prove time and again with parkruns, half marathons, marathons and ultras that all body types are totally capable of running.’

Being part of that diverse real-world community has been a huge help. ‘I’ve been running for six years now and I’ve been opened up to the community of runners – a community of lovely, friendly people,’ she says. ‘The more races I take part in, the more I see that we can all do it.’ And as running has showed her what her own body can do, she has been able to view it in a more positive light. ‘It’s taken a long time, but I’m feeling at peace with my body,’ she says. ‘It can take me through marathons, it can swim in crazy-cold temperatures; I’ve learned to stop punishing myself and be thankful for what my body does for me every day. It’s taken a long time on this body journey, so I’m not going to say it’s an instant fix, but I am here right now.’

Butler still feels the running industry has some catching up to do. ‘[It] isn’t where we want it to be, including magazines, social media, ambassador teams, clothing brands, etc, but they are making a start,’ she says. ‘The more we talk about it, the more people will take notice, and the more we can educate!’

In the meantime, she has a simple message for anyone for whom body image is a barrier to lacing up a pair of running shoes: ‘Please run! You are amazing. Anybody can run. It doesn’t matter what size, gender, speed, body shape you are, as long as you are out there and having fun.’

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