First blog – why genitals, why running

Welcome to this blog! Over the next weeks, I’m going to use this as another way to keep my training on track. If I’m honest, public accountability is proving to be the best way to keep the legs trotting along to the training schedule. Having said that, I will try my very best not to bore any potential readers with a mile by mile account of every hill and stumble I take – I’m not sure I find that very interesting myself so won’t be inflicting it upon you. 

I’m getting close to half way through ‘formal’ training now, and the weekly long runs are really stretching out. Today was 18 miles. It was long, as my feet are keen to remind me. A little more about that later. 

You may have come to this via my fundraising page but if not, then why on earth am I jogging for genitals? I was born and raised in a nice south eastern corner of the UK where we could be accused of pretending such things don’t exist. So why bring the genitals into my running? I’m raising money for an African charity, Divinity Foundation, who run a refuge for girls running from having female genital mutilation, or FGM. FGM is illegal in the UK and many other countries but is still very widely practiced. 

The latest UN estimates are that 200 million women alive have had FGM – with a quick google search and a basic percentage calculation (lets see if I can get some maths into each week!) around 5% of the world’s female population has had their genitals cut, harmed, mutilated, and there are no health benefits as a result. The practice often leaves women with health complications which can last decades, but to me that isn’t even the point. It’s just not OK for millions of little girls, some just a few days old, to be cut because they happened to be born female. There are lots of different ways, types, traditions, methods of grooming, endless elements around FGM. But every single one you can bring it back to she was cut, because she was born a girl. 

NB / Word of warning, if anyone thinks they’d like to raise any of the more controversial elements of this discussion (male circumcision springs to mind), please find me a in a pub one day for a full and frank discussion. Without getting into the rights and wrongs, it’s just not the same but I’m happy to talk it through! 

So that’s a start to the question why genitals, but it’s a theme likely to pop up again in weeks to come. 

Onto the running. Well, I’m no natural runner. I think I’m a plodder.  If a dinosaur, a def-plod-icus.  But a little while ago, my lovely brother ran a marathon. And then another. (And another, but I think he was starting to show off by then). And I was awfully impressed. Such impressive feats so close to one gives one a sense of energy somehow. From there, I thought I really did need to try and sort my fitness out, at which point Radio 4’s Today show provided a commentary of early morning public health research results to support this inkling. Very slowly, I started running. And now it’s turned into this. Together my brother and Radio 4’s today show have a lot to answer for. I now enjoy a nice 5 mile Sunday morning run, and I’ve ‘done a half’ – see, I’m learning the lingo. Little did I realise what a leap between training for a half marathon and a full marathon entailed. 

But I’m trying to make the most of it. Today my 18 miles were a serious chunk of the London marathon route (I’m running the Brighton Marathon). Throughout today’s run, I saw such fabulous things. And found a couple of take-home lessons:

  1. At Tower Bridge, it IS fun pretending you’re in the real marathon and going to be one of those few stopped for a sweaty interview by Denise Lewis for the BBC broadcast to the millions. My little bit was so good, never to be repeated, you’ll have to trust me on that. 
  2. The London marathon route also happens to pass the venue of a London Gin Festival, a location I found myself with a dear friend only last night. Are botanicals a little bit like vitamins, supporting training?
  3. At least three corner shop/newsagents in London are extremely kind to sweaty and probably slightly pungent customers, handing over surely damp coins in need of a ribena. (Me, three times).
  4. The Embankment is a veritable highway for lunchtime runners of all shapes sizes and especially speeds.  I think I shall wear armour next time. Golly gosh. 
  5. M&S chocolate milkshake is the best and most welcome recovery drink I’ve found yet.  And I don’t even feel bad, cos I just ran 18 miles!

Please, if you can and wish to, I am very grateful for any donations at this website – any donations go straight to Divinity Foundation using this page. 

In future posts, I’m likely to witter on about a mix of hopefully interesting but slightly different topics around FGM – less of the lecture but sharing more of the good programmes and stories which are out there in the media to learn more, and then of course updating on various elements of training.

Miles today: 18ish

(NB Strava is far too generous and easily confused by tall buildings – it was not 22 miles!)

Strava miles this year: 152

Until the big day: 6 weeks and 6 days

Brighton Marathon, 9 April 2017!


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