At 50, Mandy Blair felt ‘fat, out of shape and keen to make a change’. She had thought about running, but her age and body shape initially made her believe she couldn’t. Then parkrun started locally and she decided to have a go. ‘I knew no one but that was good as no one could judge me,’ she says. ‘Little did I know that others that looked like me joined, too.’
Now 54, running has become a big part of Blair’s life, but despite running alongside others like her, she still feels very keenly that she doesn’t fit the image of a runner. ‘I’ve been running for three years and completed a marathon, but although I’m proud of my body for helping me achieve my goals, I still can’t stand in a line of runners and feel like them,’ she says.
For Blair, the issue is a lack of diversity in the media. ‘I don’t think I have ever seen what I would class as a “normal woman” in a running mag or on social media,’ she says. ‘I’m not 5ft 10in [or] size six with perfectly shaped legs, and although running has changed my shape, large running tops don’t always fit. I have been extremely impressed with how my old, slightly overweight body has completed a marathon, and mentally I feel strong. We should be celebrating all shapes and sizes for their achievements, but somehow that doesn’t happen so, no, I still never feel like a runner.’
Not feeling like a runner hasn’t stopped her, though, and Blair has words of encouragement for others who feel a disconnect between the images of runners they see in the media and what they see in the mirror. ‘Don’t let those images stop you from achieving your goals, start slowly and build over time, put loud music on to block out any comments and get out there,’ she says. ‘If I can do it, anyone can, and even if I don’t call myself a runner, I run and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.’
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