The U.K is an ‘uncomfortable’ place to live at the moment with divisions forming in all areas of society. It’s hard to stay positive amongst the chaos and concern. Sport can divide but also has an amazing power to unite. (Let’s not mention the football!) When we turned up to running club the morning after the #Brexit result there was a brief discussion how everyone had voted but we quickly moved on to some crazy running games and for one wonderful hour we moved and laughed and escaped the woes of the world. That’s what I love about 261Fearless, the ability it has to bring women of all backgrounds and beliefs together to enjoy running.
I’m just back from a whistle stop trip to Des Moines in Iowa, USA, where I saw this power in action on a global scale. I was helping to lead a Train the Trainer course for women who want to start their own 261Fearless running clubs. Our new club leaders were from the USA and Brazil and my co-leader was Austrian. A truly international summit and a demonstration to me of the ability that this movement has to unite women all over the world.
Des Moines is hot in summer (and freezing in winter) and air-conditioned corridors called the Skywalk run between buildings from one side of town to the other so you don’t need to go outside. However, despite it being over 30 degrees every day, we managed to find a spot by the river where there was a slight breeze and a bit of shade. We started with running games to get to know one another – a sun breaker rather than an ice breaker! Throwing a ball to me whilst I run, next to a river and expecting me to catch it whilst also asking me to explain how I got into running is a VERY tall order!
With surprisingly dry tennis balls we moved to the classroom. Mixing practical sessions and theory over the course of three days, we prepared our leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to go away and start these very special women’s running groups. I present the section on Women and Running and get to share my medical knowledge to help future club leaders train women safely and make them aware of some of the barriers that women face on their running journeys. My co-leader Edith Zuschmann is an experienced coach and a fount of all knowledge when it comes to running technique. Through observation and drills she’s really helped me to improve how I run.
It’s intensive, there’s a lot to learn but we managed to sneak in a trip to the Downtown Des Moines Farmer’s Market for breakfast and a run round the sculpture park. I love the combination of running and tourism!
We had a special visitor as Kathrine Switzer joined us for the day. Her energy amazes me and there’s a buzz that appears in the room when she enters. Her desire to bring women together through 261Fearless and to reach the most disempowered is humbling.
There was time to chat and discuss how running fits into the communities from Des Moines to Sao Paolo. Time to make firm friendships and offer hospitality. Time to plan the future and look forward to the new clubs starting.
I left feeling energised and inspired by a wonderful group of women who all have the same desire; to make the world just that little bit better by helping women close to home and watching the ripples from that pebble thrown into the water, spread wider and wider.
Special thanks to Chris Burke from the IMT Des Moines Marathon for hosting us.
Images (except featured image) courtesy of Horst Von Bohlen photography.