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Meet some of the inspirational women taking on #HERVIRTUAL5K

Hundreds of women have already registered to be a part of #HERVIRTUAL5K, the first in a series of exciting new women’s events delivered by R4W, running throughout the month of April.

The series has been designed as a call to action for those who want to celebrate their love of running, whether they are just starting, returning after some time off or already running regularly. It has been inspired by Cardiff University research that explored reasons women run and the barriers they face, and is being supported by performance underwear brand Runderwear.

We spoke to some of the women taking part about their motivations to take up running, the impact it has on their physical and mental health plus reasons they’ve signed up to run the HER VIRTUAL 5K.

Name: Rebecca White

Age: 38

From: Llantwit Fadre

Bio: Rebecca was attacked walking home two and a half years ago, and still doesn’t feel comfortable going out alone at night. She’s recently started running again – but it took time to re-build her confidence, and she misses the freedom of exercising when/where she wants.

You stopped running for a time, why was that and what did you miss about it?

Over two years ago I was attacked whilst walking home after a night out celebrating a friend’s birthday. A man followed me and dragged me down some basement stairs to rape me. Luckily, a man living in the house across the street heard me screaming for my life and scared the man away.  I have worked hard to build my confidence back up and get back to normal.  However, I am still very nervous to go out in the dark alone.  Therefore, I do not run at all over the Winter because it is dark before and after work. I miss the freedom to exercise when I want and where I want.

You’ve recently started running again, are you enjoying getting back into it?

Yes, I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after I have run. It is a nice feeling to do something for myself, as my life revolves around looking after my son and walking the dog. I cherish the time where it is just myself and running helps to clear my head.

What was your motivation to join HER VIRTUAL 5K?

It has been a long journey since I was attacked.  The attacker was finally brought to trial in February, so the ordeal is finally over.  When I saw the HER VIRTUAL 5K advertised just after the trial, it seemed like perfect timing. The concerns and issues of women feeling safe to exercise outdoors raised by this race resonates with how I feel. I signed up to give me the push and drive to start running again, especially now it is lighter.

Name: Joan Barker

Age: 54

From: Bracknell

Bio: Joan has found the latest lockdown particularly tough and has struggled to motivate herself to go out running. Recent tragic events have heightened her concerns around women’s safety. Usually motivated by live events and ‘real’ racing, she’s using virtual events to keep herself motivated.

Why and when did you take up running?

I began running on a treadmill as part of my weekly PT sessions in the gym in an attempt to lose some weight and get fitter. My personal trainer suggested that I run outside, so when Bracknell parkrun started in April 2015, I went along. I couldn’t run for more than a minute, but I kept going along and was determined to improve so that I could run the whole distance. He then set me a challenge to complete our local half marathon, which I did! I don’t find running easy; every time I go out it’s a challenge, so I use it to challenge myself, whether it’s a new race distance or personal best.

What has running meant to you during lockdown?

I found this last lockdown tough with the restrictions on meeting up with people. I’ve been working very long hours and struggled sometimes to get out to run as it’s been dark and I don’t like running alone as I get very anxious (especially after recent tragic events) but when I have been able to get out, it’s been a great release from the stresses of work. I’m using it to try and help reduce my anxiety about running solo too. 

What was your motivation to join HER VIRTUAL 5K?

It’s great to see the development of new events which support female runners and encourage all women to take part in sports in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere. With all the races that I’d entered currently on hold, virtual events such as HER VIRTUAL 5K are keeping me motivated to go out and train and do what I can until ‘real’ events return. 

Name: Cherylyn Mackenzie

Age: 42

From: Rhondda Cynon Taff

Bio: Cherylyn’s husband committed suicide in 2018. Running has been important to her since, as a way of helping with her mental health and making her children proud.

Running has helped you through some difficult times. How does it help?

Running gives me time to think. I use the time for mindfulness. Sometimes I beat myself up over things that have happened in the past, sometimes I think about gratitude and what I should be thankful for today. But whatever the thoughts are, I work my way through them a mile at a time having conversations with myself.  I also love listening to music, and the familiar feeling of rhythm that running brings to your feet and breath. I remind myself that happiness is an inside job.

Making your children proud is a motivator to you. Do you hope your example will teach them the importance of being active?

It’s important for my children to see me as active and healthy. They can see the benefits and effects it has on me physically and mentally. I’ve always been active and entering a race had kept me motivated. Things changed when my husband died, and I became very depressed. My mind took me to some very dark places. My running stopped. My life turned upside down. My children grieved for their father, but they also wanted to see me back to some sort of normal.  As I slowly pieced my life together (I am still doing so) I started running again. I didn’t go very far at first, my anxiety and paranoia took hold and I found myself running home . How could I be out running when I just lost my husband? How dare I leave the house! … the mind is a strange thing. Running was like an old friend to lean on and each time it slowly became more manageable again. My children lost their dad physically – I couldn’t and can’t let them lose me mentally.

What was your motivation to join HER VIRTUAL 5K?

I saw an email and thought, yes please! Entering a race is always an excellent goal. It can be great focus for your training and encourages you to make healthy food choices. Runderwear’s involvement was a bonus as it’s nice to treat yourself to some new running gear!

Name: Elin McCarthy

Age: 52

From: Swansea

Bio: Elin lost her confidence after undergoing chemotherapy. She’s found that running has improved her wellbeing and wants to encourage and motivate others to try it!

How has running helped you following your experience of chemotherapy?

Following chemo I lost my confidence; I had gained weight and I felt very tired on minimal exertion at times. However, I started running doing couch to 5k type of build up slowly at my own pace and found I was able to build up my running distance and running time slowly, feeling like I had done physical exercise but not excessively tired! This reassured me and I was able to extend that running distance and time to longer intervals step by step, month by month. It has made me feel like I have achieved something, and I can set myself simple but modest goals.

What impact does running have on your wellbeing?

It has become vital to my weekly routine so much so that if a miss a few days without a run I feel sluggish and tense. When I run, I can feel my joints and muscles loosen up and similarly my mind relaxes, and I really enjoy being out getting physical and mental exercise. It is great to be able to do something on your own or with friend(s).

What was your motivation to join HER VIRTUAL 5K?

Running has helped me to achieve personal goals and running a 5k is one of those goals. Furthermore, HER VIRTUAL 5K is for women and I am keen to encourage other ladies to ‘just do it’ and to enjoy it, particularly if they have any health issues, as being active is essential for everyone.

It’s not too late to get involved if you’re not already registered! Find out more or enter now before the event closes on 28 April.
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