Julie Creffield, a 32-year-old UK-based woman, recently wanted to run a marathon. That’s not really news, 3/4 of my Facebook feed wants to run a marathon. Julie’s story gets newsworthy when she goes to the doctor, mentions her running (because it is a truth universally acknowledged that if you are training to run a marathon, the ONLY thing you can talk about with other people is the fact that you are training to run a marathon) and was promptly told that she was “too fat” to run the race. (To protect knees and joints, some doctors recommend a very moderate regimen for new runners who are considered overweight.)
But Creffield had already been running for some time, and she wasn’t having it. “Despite my size 18 frame I am a runner,” she wrote on the Huffington Post. “I have in fact been a runner for the last ten years running everything from 5k fun runs to full marathons. I run because I love the feeling of running, I love the community of runners where I have made many friends, but I admit I also run to keep control of my weight, and to help me lead a healthier and happier life.”
So rather than get mad, she got inspirational. She started blogging about her experiences running as a plus-sized girl, and as she trained, she gained a gaggle of followers, many of whom found a home in the comments section of her blog because they were plus-sized girls and they ran too and it was on Julie’s blog that they found inspiration and motivation and a sense of community they so craved.
Julie began her own marathon journey in 2010. By 2013, she was virtually marathon coaching plus-sized women around the world with her “FattyMustRun Marathon Challenge.” Several of the women she was coaching had never managed to run a marathon before, yet by the end of training, two ran full marathons and another three ran half-marathons.
It was this success that inspired Julie to turn her blog into an actual business. She has recently launched the website Too Fat To Run which will provide first-time runners with the resources, including safety tips, to make their dreams a reality. The site will also sell merchandise, because, you know, you got to keep the lights on. Actually, one of the coolest things “Too Fat To Run” is doing, merch-wise, is selling runners apparel that provides a range of sizes for plus-sizers (most fitness wear does not clothe women past a size 16 or 18). The idea is to be able to make this business profitable enough to make “stylish, sexy, technical apparel” for plus-sized athletes.
One of the big myths Julie is trying to dispel is the idea that women of a certain size should not engage in intense physical activity. (Of course, everyone, regardless of size, should check with their doctor before they start an intense exercise regimen.) As Julie puts it:
“Two thirds of the UK population are overweight or obese and the media takes great pleasure is scare-mongering us into doing something about it with magazines promoting the next big faddy diet and government agencies telling everyone to ditch the car and cycle to work.”
She then drives her point home with the following statement:
“What we need are practical solutions where women feel empowered to be more active and where exercise is seen as something enjoyable and fun rather than a chore and something we must do.”
Athletes really do come in all shapes in sizes and it is awesome that Julie Creffield is making space in the world for nontraditional athletes to kick ass and take names.