Comedians Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson are best known as the co-hosts of the Scummy Mummies podcast, on which they discuss a range of issues affecting modern parents. But on Sunday they’ll be swapping the microphone for the London Marathon. RW caught up with them to talk training, misconceptions and why anyone can become a runner…
So, how’s the training been going?
Helen: I’ve really enjoyed the training, especially during lockdown as there was very little you were allowed to do. To get outside felt like a treat. I’m a single parent and was home-schooling while also working from home, so anything that involved actually leaving my house felt like a prize.
I started running properly when I was 40. I’m all the cliches: wanting to get fit in my mid-life, all that sort of thing. But I’ve been surprised by the gains I’ve got in terms of fitness. Like every other running w***er, I’m obsessed with my stats. So setting little goals every couple of weeks – like running a little bit faster or the fact my resting heart rate has come down – has been fantastic.
Ellie: I did my final long run, my 20-miler, and felt awful after that. I did all the classic things: I started too fast; halfway round I got really thirsty so I had some Fanta when I should have had water; then I sprinted the final half kilometre and vomited everywhere. So it wasn’t the best run of my life, to be honest. I spoke with my running coach and she said: ‘Yeah, you’ve done a lot of daft things, but that’s why you do these test runs.’
I did another run the other day, just 10 miles, and that felt much better. So I think I’ve found a strategy that works and now I’ll be alright. Hopefully.
Tell us about the charities that you’re running for?
H: I’m running for Women’s Aid. The charity supports women and children in getting out of abusive relationships. I picked Women’s Aid a couple of years ago but now feel even more passionately about the charity as during lockdown there was a massive increase in domestic violence and women and children have become less safe, alongside a big government cut in [funding] that area. I think I’ll feel quite emotional on the day wearing the Women’s Aid vest. There’s something really rewarding about running with a purpose.
E: I’m running for the Borne charity. It funds research into preventing premature births. Fifteen million babies are born prematurely every year and a million of those babies die. Many more face huge challenges their whole lives. I had a premature baby in December 2014. He was born nine weeks early and was in hospital for six weeks. He’s happy and healthy now, but it was a really scary time and we could have lost him, so I would like no one else to go through that.
What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about running?
H: I think there’s a real misconception about what a runner looks like or how fast you have to go to be a runner. I’m older, I have a fairly robust figure, I don’t look like Paula Radcliffe.
I grew up in Australia where sport was king and was always the slowest and last to be picked so had a poor relationship with my body and exercise. I had all those hang ups about not being very fast. But this training has transformed how I feel about exercise.
E: I started running about 11 years ago and remember doing the Couch to 5K. I remember the first time I ran for 10mins and thought I’d never be able to run for 30mins. Yet here we are. So when someone says to me that they could never be a runner, I tell them to give it a go, even if it seems impossible.
RW’s recent Reclaim Your Run campaign highlighted some of the issues facing female runners. Have you experienced any physical or verbal abuse while running?
H: I’ve had times when I’ve been out running and men have shouted abuse at me about how I look. And that sadly is a common occurrence for women and it can put them off. I understand why people want to exercise at home, because sadly there are a lot of p•••ks out there who think it’s completely fine to put women down when they’re out exercising. So I feel really proud that I’ve got to this point because I think a lot of people would have been knocked back by that. And I want to keep running.
Will you keep on running after you complete the London Marathon on Sunday?
E: I’m not going to run another marathon after this because, apart from anything else, I’ve been told by a physio not to. I’ve had knee issues all along. At the moment they’re fine, so I’m not worried about Sunday, but the physio has said to me: ‘Look, you’ve got one marathon in you.’ But I will definitely carry on running because I really love it and it’s become part of my life. I’ve built the habit, and I think that’s the biggest benefit of training for the marathon: running is something I just do now. Also, it’s introduced me to other forms of fitness; I’ve been doing a bit of yoga, Pilates and strength training. It’s broadened my exercise buffet!
H: I want to keep running but have also got into powerlifting and the strength side of things. I did have an injury setback, though, when my personal trainer said, ‘I think you can do a handstand.’ Turns out, I can’t.
How will you celebrate when you cross the finish line on Sunday?
E: Eating! I’m going to eat all the things. Both mine and Helen’s birthdays are in October, too, so we’re planning a month-long celebration. Lots of food, bit of champagne – although I’ve been told not to have fizz immediately after running 26.2 miles and, given the Fanta experience, that sounds like a good idea.
Finally, what message do you have for other mums who might be thinking about taking up running?
H: If you can easily spend 20 minutes on Instagram or hiding from your children on the loo, then maybe you can have a go at going for a walk or run. People feel like they don’t have time, but the energy that you’ll get from being outside, even if it’s just for a walk, is so good. And the running community is the nicest and most supportive bunch of people that you’ll ever meet. It doesn’t matter if you finish at the back. My motto is: everyone gets the same medal at the end.
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