22nd April 2016
2016 is being a bit of a bitch and I think someone needs to sort it out! First it snatched Bowie and Rickman, now Prince. Along the way, it’s taken Terry Wogan (who actually WAS Eurovision, the singing was just a side show) and Ronnie Corbett, even Paul Daniels: pillars of the British televiewing establishment: staples of my formative years. All gone. But the one that has rocked me most is the death of Victoria Wood: one of my childhood heroes.
It’s not like she was my godmother or anything, so I’m not quite sure why I’m having such a strong reaction. (I may have teared up a time or two since reading the news). But she is one third of my trifecta of comedy heroes. (Alongside Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French).
When you grow up to find your body has mysteriously failed to conform to the norms set by Barbie or any girl that ever graced the pages of a magazine (I grew up pre celeb mags that take delight in snapping shots of glamour queens sans makeup and “SHOCK, HORROR, is that a wrinkle of fat?”, so perfection was the ONLY image), it was a welcome relief to find there were women who looked different. You know, bigger… My TV viewing was dominated by French & Saunders clowning about and Victoria Wood crooning crazy songs along with the mad characters she invented. Funny, brilliant women, and it mattered not one jot that they weren’t a perfect 10. In those hideous years of teenage angst and uncertainty, I’m pretty sure those three saved my sanity.
But it’s been a week for thinking about heroes. In the shadow of this year’s Boston Marathon, Dannielle posted an article to Facebook, written by Amby Burfoot about the feats of Bobbi Gibb and Kathrine Switzer, amongst others, and the impact they had on enabling women’s running.
I knew nothing of them, though.
Despite their achievements, my experience until I was about 30 was that running was just for blokes. And even if I had heard of them, I would have decided that running was just for blokes AND slim, athletic-looking, talented-runner females.
Not me, though.
I also knew this because I used to sneak into the newsagent, grab a copy of Runner’s World (and a few other items to distract the cashier, because heaven forbid they realised the magazine was for me. After all, I was pretty certain they’d look me up and down and decide from their judgey tower that it was irrelevant to me). But when I’d run the gauntlet and got it home, all the articles were written by blokes. Running was for blokes, see!
I liked Amby Burfoot’s articles. But he was some sort of elite type runner. So I’d read his columns with interest, then let the words slide over me, knowing that this talk of goals and race pace and training plans was not meant for me, and move on.
I’d flick through, eye up all the superhero trainers (magically transforming you from plodder to whizzer with a single tie of the laces) and try to follow the lines showing me which shoes would be perfect for my running style. (Style. Style? There was no style to my plodding, I can assure you).
Why I spent so much time following lines to shoes-from-heaven, I can’t fathom… I had no idea what pronate or supinate actually meant. And of course, this being 20 years ago, there weren’t many issues that actually featured running shoes actually designed for women because actually there wasn’t much call for them. Running being for blokes, and all.
My favourite section was the back page: The Penguin Chronicles. I loved John Bingham’s articles about plodding and plodders. I sensed a kindred spirit. But still, I let the words spill over me. Because whilst I intuitively knew that I belonged in the back of the pack, I had never run in a race (since leaving school) to prove it. Races were for blokes. (Which was good: it meant there was NO (recent) PROOF that my untapped innate running ability was not an actual thing).
So The Penguin told his tales of finishing near the back and entertained me monthly with his wisdom, and even though he was American, he was a bloke and he was running marathons (5k was more than I could muster), he probably counts as my first running hero. Just one that I didn’t relate to 100%.
And for me, relate-ability is really important. And that’s why Operation Move became such a rock. Because that is where my true running heroes can be found.
There are the runners like Zoey, who inspires me with her dedication and work ethic. I recognise my sister, Rach, as being of that breed. Meredith, at Swim Bike Mom would fall amongst this group, too. I look up to these women, because that drive for perfection and determination to leave nothing to chance can feel alien to me. They show the way.
Then there are the sages like Katie and Lee, who bring huge perspective to running (and life). Always in the nick of time. Always with generosity of spirit.
And Emily, for soul, and because her humour slays me.
And the girls who I’ve found in the training groups I’ve belonged to, who have shared their highs, their lows, their insecurities, their good advice, their break throughs, their challenges balancing fitness with life, their misery at injury and of course, their fabulous achievements. The real people. Kate, Kirsten, Katherine and Kay (there are many others, but their names don’t start with K, so I refuse to name them. Sorry Rachel x2, JO HOWARD*, Dannielle, Deana, Corinne, Lea, Linda, Tina, Suzi, Carla and Treacy. It just wasn’t possible to squeeze you in).
And the actual real life heroes, like Ness, Jackie and Rachel, who were always there when I needed them in Whyalla, and are still on the end of a text now.
I think I found some real life heroes in Brisbane yesterday at triathlon training, too. But we’ll return to that subject. For now, let’s just say I met some fabulously friendly humans who went above and beyond to put me at ease. It felt pretty heroic at 5.30am when every fibre in my body told me DRIVE HOME NOW.
So, to all my heroes, mentioned or not (*because I have a brain the size of a goldfish’s, which means I’m bound to have forgotten someone important: sorry), I salute you.
You inspire me every day.
There aren’t sufficient words, really, so thank you will have to suffice. xx