Find your Tribe: International Women’s Day

Today is international women’s day, so here’s a bit about why I started and have continued to run. Women. That’s right, Joey who went to an all girls school and hated it, Joey who always preferred the company of blokes is shouting it loud. Women bloody rock.

In January last year I found my tribe, my place and surprisingly it was in an online running club (usually it would’ve been a pub). I found, or rather these women found me, through the blog and Facebook page of Julie Creffield – founder and CEO of The Fat Girl’s Guide to Running. This is a whole other blog, for a whole other time but yes, I am FAT and I own that word, its emblazoned across my running vests which my breasts jiggle underneath, its on my buff that soaks up the sweat of a long run. I’m a fat girl and I run. Luckily Julie is clever enough to have brought out a range of t-shirts for plus size runners so we’re no longer forced to wear black or shop from the men’s section. So now I’m very much a multi-coloured fat girl who runs.

Joey iwd

So why did I start? Well that’s easy, these women were just like me, some even have my dark sense of humour and taste for gin, I didn’t feel judged and I can’t say enough how important it is as a new runner to not feel judged. So why did I continue? Well that’s a slightly longer explanation but what it boils down to is sisterhood. Standing shoulder to shoulder with each other and building each other up instead of down. Recommending a decent bra or trick you’ve just figured out how to keep your knickers up and don’t even get me started on the conversations about panty liners while running.

“You could’ve got this support from a mixed group” some may argue. Possibly. I personally believe after a couple of sessions of being the very slowest in a mixed group I would’ve gone home and carried on watching Greys Anatomy. Every time I fall down, there is a woman online who will build me back up again, give me some words of wisdom, send me a virtual hug or tell me to put my happy pants on.
As women, we are so used to being judged for the way we look it has sadly become a usual part of life but on this day, I’d like to thank every person who has run past me or seen a picture of me running and yelled/commented “going strong!” “you’ve got this” or my personal favourite “flying feet!” because when I’m running I don’t care what my hair or make up looks like. I feel strong and more confident than I ever have on any night out.

On Sunday I was meant to be doing a challenge I’d set myself, the 5km, 1km and 10km races at the St David’s Day run. About 2km in my heart was racing and I pulled over to the side. Three women stopped, not caring about their times, and waited for St Johns paramedics to arrive. It turns out that one of my (many) medications was stopping me getting the oxygen I needed. It was the women who stopped and helped and have later found me on Facebook to find out if I’m doing okay. I’m not saying for a second that men wouldn’t have stopped but these women did and to me that sums up the women’s running community. We are a tribe with unwritten rules. We leave our jobs and families at home to pound the pavements and trails where we are equal. We encourage, celebrate and cheer each other on. We may be a little mad but the best people always are. My running friends have become some of my best friends even though I’ve only met a minority of them in the ‘real world’.

To the men who stand with these women, supporting, holding rucksacks of kit, taking your daughters to Junior Parkrun. I thank you. You are building the next generation of running women and standing shoulder to shoulder with the current one.

I could easily get really sentimental here as I am so passionate about women in sport but really what it boils down to is we are stronger than even we know. We can do and accomplish things we haven’t even dreamed of yet. So, find your tribe, whether it be your local run group, an online running club, your neighbour or your work colleagues. Find them and show the world what we can do!