Misconceptions about what a runner’s body should look like have affected Ruby Wright in various ways. Initially, she felt self-conscious about not looking athletic enough. ‘My body wasn’t in that firm shape that we only ever see on female runners in magazines and adverts, so I thought it would give me away as a beginner,’ she says. ‘I’d been shouted at in the street when I’d dared to try a run by myself, by someone telling me I was already too skinny.’
After those negative solo running experiences, Wright’s sister persuaded her to try the diverse environment of parkrun. ‘At my first parkrun I tried to get back in the car when I saw some “real runners”, but once I stopped panicking, seeing so many different shapes, sizes and abilities helped. I also realised no one was looking at me as they were focused on their own runs, and running among other people made me feel less likely to be singled out.’
Wright’s lean physique brought other pressures, too. ‘I was told I was “built like a runner”, so I felt pressure to get quicker and wondered why I couldn’t live up to those expectations,’ she says. ‘But every run felt tough and it didn’t come naturally.’
Recently, Wright has been able to focus less on what people expect her body to do and appreciate what it can. ‘I’ve been running for six years now, but it was only during training for last year’s London Marathon (my first) that I started to appreciate my body and how strong it is,’ she says. Wright has this advice for others: ‘Start with someone you feel comfortable with and dress in what you want, not what you think you should wear. Remember that runners come in all shapes and sizes and anyone putting one foot in front of the other is a runner. No one gets to tell us we aren’t.'
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