The Clubhouse

I started this post last weekend but then got busy with other stuff so I thought I’d finish it today. I wasn’t running that day. I was sitting in the summer house trying to get some work things finished and learning how to cope with my new MacBook Air. Facebook tells me that lots of ladies from the Clubhouse were running races that day and that others were battling the warm weather on their training runs. So the Clubhouse. I thought I’d tell you about it and about the Too Fat to Run  (TFTR) Community/Group/Whatever you want to call it in more detail than I have before.

I am probably about the last person you might expect to join a running club. I am also about the last person you’d expect to join an online group of any kind and I am probably also one of the least likely women to like the idea of joining a women only group. Let’s face it, we can be bitchy and competitive and dramatic and mostly I really can’t be bothered with that shit. I’m also not the most sympathetic and I get irritated by other people’s dramas quite easily. I also don’t really care what other people think most of the time so it is difficult to see what I might get out of such groups or what I might contribute. The Clubhouse is an online, women only running club – so exactly what I would usually roll my eyes at and what I certainly wouldn’t pay to join, except that I did.

So how did the Clubhouse and my engagement with TFTR turn out to be so amazingly positive? Back in November when I felt totally lost and I was struggling to get off the sofa, Facebook showed me a suggested page for Countdown to Christmas run by Julie Creffield who is behind TFTR. It was fairly cheap and I thought it might give me a positive focus through December and it did.Daily challenges kept me doing something and it was fun to interact with people and laugh about our attempts at some of the challenges and celebrate our successes in others. It felt like being part of something at a time when I wasn’t really sure where I was going with anything. I read about the Clubhouse and I wondered whether it might be fun. I signed up on a whim really. I’m glad I did but I still find it really hard to articulate why.

The Clubhouse is a pretty simple premise – you pay a monthly fee (or pay all in one go for the year as I did) and get access to a closed online Facebook group in which Julie provides a sort of coaching thing which is also hard to capture in words. There are monthly themes (May =retreat) with challenges set to go with it, there are opportunities to ask questions – generally of course but also at specified points each week, there’s a discount on merchandise and the other things Julie does, there’s a closed section of the website with resources – running plans etc. You do actually get a lot for your money including tips on running and fitness from Julie which are specific to you. The Facebook group is the most valuable. I interact with someone on there daily. Ok, I hear you, I could do that on the open Too Fat to Run page too but it’s not the same. For a start the main page is public, the group is private and the page has too many followers to create the feel of a supportive group and network – it’s too anonymous (eventhough it is public – I know what I mean!). Ok, I could set up a closed group and invite all my running friends to join that – oh wait I don’t have many running friends… I have some friends who run but it is not running that has brought us together as friends and somehow there are things about running – particularly running as the fatty that I am that I’m not sure I want to share with people I actually know in other ways – not in a personal sort of closed facebook group kind of way (yes, weird given that I will happily blog about it all).

So the Clubhouse works for me because I am not a sociable runner and therefore don’t talk running with a group of likeminded runners on a regular basis – an actual running club fills me with dread (although I will go one day just to try a session, it’s good to be a little scared, right?!?) but I do have this slightly odd need to share my running stories, fears, disasters and successes with people who ‘get it’. The Clubhouse brings together a group of women who get it. The ‘it’ is slightly different for all of us I think. We are all at different stages of our running lives and our lives generally, we have different views on everything, including running and health and fitness but so far, surprisingly for a group of women, I have found it to be supportive, encouraging and totally non-judgmental. I like hearing the stories as much as I like sharing mine. The funny thing is, I’m not sure I would in ‘real’ life. Online is good. Others in the Clubhouse do meet up and make more of an effort to meet up at races etc, I’m not sure that’s what I need from the Clubhouse, what I need is instant unquestioning support right there when I need it and for that it works (don’t ask for much do I ?!?)

There are other things about the Too Fat to Run community I really like – there’s a blog, monthly virtual One Big Fat Run – a 5k run on the last Sunday of the month. You can even buy a medal in the shop if you run for the bling (more on that another time!). I like my Too Fat to Run t-shirts because whenever I wear them I get brilliant people watching opportunities  – people don’t quite know how to react when they see me walking or running along with ‘Too Fat to Run?’ in big letters across my front and I wish I’d had something like the 5 weeks to 5k programme when I started out because it is so much better than the programmes I tried to get through and work with. And if you like having a nosey at what other people are doing there is always the Runner of the Month feature (I’m January and blogged about that here).

It might not be for everyone and maybe it won’t be for me in the long term, who knows, things change but for now I really value the support I get from a whole bunch of women I’ve never met (save for a few who I have met briefly before and even more briefly during the London Marathon). If you want to begin to get a sense of what it’s all about have a look at the main Too Fat to Run Facebook Page.

Happy Running


The Fat Girls’ Guide to Running Runner of the Month

Hm, so I’m The Fat Girls’ Guide to Running‘s Runner of the Month. I am absolutely chuffed to bits that someone in the Clubhouse nominated me and that everyone seemed to agree that I should be it. Chuffed to bits but bemused… so let me explain. Oh and just a warning – I have got a hideous cold, I haven’t been out running, I should have been going to a party to celebrate one of the most loveliest and most supportive people I know and I’m not because of this cold and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and emotional and have been thinking too much.

I mentioned that before Christmas I decided to sign up for the Countdown to Christmas challenge run by Julie Creffield – the woman behind the too fat to run brand who runs the Fat Girls’ Guide to Running community and its virtual running club called the Clubhouse. I thought a challenge that had me doing something health and fitness related every day in December would give me something positive to focus on while I was off work sick and trying to get my head screwed on right. Well I loved the Countdown to Christmas – and I was surprised that I did. I am not a hugely sociable person. I roll my eyes at online clubs and communities and I wasn’t expecting to really like the people. I was there for the challenges… Anyway, the people on that countdown were just lovely and many already belonged to the Clubhouse – so I signed up.

What I got from the Clubhouse was immediate and unconditional support. Support from women who know what it is like to put your running gear on and then sit on the sofa and cry because you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror; women who have the same fears, anxieties and questions. I instantly felt that I could share that we were not only attempting the marathon but the Dopey Challenge – not something I had wanted to share with anyone else. I had been a member for less than a month – just a couple of weeks in fact when we did Dopey and the Clubhouse community made it less scary. I posted updates and comments about how I was feeling before and after every race and I drew a huge amount of energy from the supportive messages that came back. Not something I would have thought was possible before I joined. The group even tracked me on marathon day posting updates to keep the group informed. It’s hard to explain what that means to me – you know the me that was always always picked last at sports because nobody really wanted the crap fat kid on the team – suddenly there is a whole group of people who are right behind you, believe you can do it and desperately want you to succeed.

So the Clubhouse is currently the best £10 per month I spend on my health and wellbeing but I am totally bemused by the Runner of the Month thing. The intro calls me incredible and speaks of determination and grit, amazing and awesome are other words used. Words I struggle to link to me or me running Dopey. Yes I ran Dopey, I really did, and I go look at the medal every now and again to check I didn’t dream it – but I just did what I did. I’m not special, I don’t warrant all this… when I think about this my brain just refuses to acknowledge that Dopey is a big deal. But it is. 48.6 miles in 4 days a year after not being able to run at all is a massive deal and I would be so so proud of anyone who did that. In fact I am so proud of Kath who took every single step with me, so proud of each and every one of my fellow 2016 Dopeys, so proud of the lovely Jacqui who ran the last third of the half marathon with us and yet I am somehow not really proud of myself. You see I’m just me and I’m not an awesome, amazing incredible woman with grit and determination, I’m just me. And maybe that’s the point that’s important here.

You see, if  little (ok large) average me can complete the Dopey Challenge then you can too – whoever you are and whatever you think you can and can’t do right now. So I’m trying to welcome the limelight and attention from being Runner of the Month but I’d like to think of it like this: What I did was awesome, what I did was amazing and incredible, what all of us Dopeys did over those 4 days three weeks ago was a fucking huge deal BUT and you better be paying attention to this – BUT I am no different to you. I have the same self-doubt, the same anxieties, the same ‘I can’t do this’ days and the same ‘fuck it I’ll have a glass of wine and another chocolate’ attitude. You see, if you see me as some sort of superwoman you are giving yourself permission to not try, to keep sitting on the sofa, to not change – if you recognise me for what I really am, just another overweight woman giving it a go, then we can go on this rollercoaster of a running journey together just putting one foot in front of the other as fast or slow as we want for as long as we want and that is fucking awesome.