Time for a quick warning. This is my post for International Women's Day 2016 (woo hoo, go girls!) So it is all about how being a woman affects my running. That includes the womanly bits of my body (I know some of you will be running away now) and how I'm treated as the female of the species.
So if you fear the word "tampon" please feel free to skip this post, no judgement. If you fear the word feminist please skip this blog and actually, fuck off!
Now who have we got left? Most of you, bravo, I knew you'd stay. Let's get down to the nitty gritty or should that be titty gritty ;)
( I should mention here that I took the title for my blog post from a brilliant book by Alexandra Heminsley. Here's her site: http://www.runninglikeagirl.co.uk/ and she's on Twitter. https://twitter.com/Hemmo?lang=en-gb She outdoor swims too, if that's your thing)
So, number one is the way people watch, judge and respond to me when I'm out running. I'm lucky, most of the responses are positive, if sometimes unwanted and inappropriate.
Men comment on my body (usually my arse, I assume it jiggles in a way they appreciate, maybe it hypnotises them. I don't know, I've never seen, I must ask my running pals. I mainly appreciate it when sitting on the sofa eating cake) and beep their horns at me. Whilst I don't welcome this, it personally doesn't bother me too much. I guess I just enjoy running too much to let them spoil it by investing in their judgement.
However when I speak to friends who are new to running or more aware of their bodies this is a real problem. They run at night, swathed in sweatshirts and all black outfits to make themselves invisible. To avoid the stares and comments and verbal attacks that they fear. And these come from us ladies too. The whispers and sniggers if a runner has the bad taste to be fat or slow or wobbly.
This makes me sad and angry in equal measures. All that potential to be happier and healthier curtailed by some opinions that didn't have to be forced upon us. So maybe we should think a wee bit more before we speak, and think "Do I care what they think?" a bit more before we listen.
I used to find it uncomfortable running in my supermarket sports bra. Especially the week before my period, when, as lots of you will know, water retention can lead to a truly impressive rack. While it looks good, it's sensitive as hell, and any bouncing mid stride will probably lead to chest clutching, tears or stopping the run altogether.
But this was before I discovered Shock Absorber bras. Oooh the engineering in them! While I did once injure my shoulder getting out of one, it was worth it in the long run. Nothing moves, nothing chafes, you feel solid and secure like female Robocop!
This article is American but it does offer good tips for bras in different cup sizes. http://www.runnersworld.com/sports-bras/the-best-sports-bras-for-every-size Ladies you won't look back!
(Currently I've lost a bit of weight and somehow toned my chest into enjoying runs with just a bra top under my vest. This happened magically, anyone else experienced it?)
I'd like to stride out waving my equality flag and say that my menstrual cycle doesn't affect my running. But it does.
So in the few days before my period it is harder to run. I feel heavy and slow and it seems like it's harder to breath when going fast or uphill. It's harder to find the motivation to get out there are do it. But hell it feels amazing afterwards. Never have endorphins been so mood stabilising.
I always get annoyed when articles recommend not running during your period. It's not completely debilitating in most women (the unlucky ones I salute you) and training plans work best without entire weeks off.
But I will admit I've had a few problems running with my period. Running with cramps makes me horribly nauseous and gels do not sit well with my stomach. Annoying when I'm already shaky and need them most. Carrying supplies/being near a bathroom on long training runs is also really annoying right? I refuse to run 2 mile loops near my flat when run commuting is so much less time consuming and so much more fun.
Without going into too much detail, running sometimes starts or speeds up your (my) period. This can catch you (me) out and I promise it's super unlikely anyone will ever know. Running tights are usually black, other women will give you (me) a tampon (it's in the girl code) and it's a funny story to tell down the pub 6 months later when you've realised it's not that fecking shameful.
Once again on the advice front. Try moon/diva cups. They are brilliant. Especially if you're doing triathlons...no one wants a bathroom stop when you transition from the water. Problem solved (Not as gross as I imagined either. I was squeamish about this to begin with) http://www.mooncup.co.uk/
Other people's views on my safety.
I live alone and thus do most of my running by myself. I run early in the morning and late at night. I run on remote country lanes and busy city roads. And people are constantly warning me about this.
The assumption is that mad rapists and murderers will leap out of the bushes and drag me to my doom. That cars will run me off the road. That I will break my leg and lie in agony until I get hypothermia and die.
It's the only sector of my life where people tell me not to do something. "Don't run at night" "Don't run THAT way" "Don't run alone-ANYTHING could happen"
I know they have my best interests at heart but I refuse to stop because of the notion that the world is filled with threats and let my freedom be curtailed by the bad people of this city. I'll keep myself aware and wear reflective clothing and let people know if I'm trying a new unknown route. I'm not completely foolish.
But the assumption that I'm in danger simply because I'm alone and female makes me so angry. Anyway, statistically, my penchant for high fat cakes and Happy meals is much more likely to kill me in the long run.
If anything is chasing me it's heart disease and diabetes.
My nipples have never bled because they've chaffed across my running top. I've never felt the all consuming pressure to outrun a woman because it's expected that I'll be faster. And I don't need to look like the photo above when running an obstacle race topless, because society dictates that male runners are all Gods.
Thanks for reading. Sorry if it was awkward. It was honest and I think that's what we should be in our fight for equality.
Yes, we're women.
Yes, we're different
No, we won't be embarrassed about that.
Run Cat Girl Run x x