That time I ran the Leeds 10k in my underwear!
The Leeds 10k has a lot of my firsts – first time I ever ran an actual road race (I basically went from park run, to 5k colour run in a field to Leeds 10k), first time I’d actually ran 10k (furthest I’d run prior to the day was 8km – people said if I could run 8 the adrenalin of the day would carry me to 10k! They were right!), the first time I’d run 5k under 30 minutes (and possibly the last!! Adrenaline and a crowd really do push you along) and the first time I’d ever run anywhere in my underwear! (cos why not!)
We watched in awe as Bryony Gordon, Jada Sezer, Deborah Jones and the amazing ladies in London ran their Vitality 10k in their underwear as part of the #CelebrateYou campaign and we absolutely wanted to bring that feeling to Leeds. The powerful body positivity statement they were making needed to be shouted from the town hall steps so we were absolutely delighted when the Run For All team welcomed the idea with open arms.
We confidently recruited all the Leeds Girls Can ambassadors and invited other runners to join us. We chose our Underwear with pride and marched into the town hall on the morning of the race in our normal clothes feeling powerful. We platted each other’s hair and added sparkles to our cheeks and tried to pretend we weren’t absolutely terrified that in less than 30 minutes we would be running down Kirkstall Road in our knickers!
I’m a size 16 on a good day, and at 45 and peri-menopausal my body sometimes feels like it might possibly belong to someone else! My body has grown babies and birthed them, it’s helped me climb mountains and cycle countries, it’s proved to be stronger than I have given it credit for but I haven’t always been kind to it – especially recently. I’ve not always been happy with what I saw in the mirror and for the most part hidden it behind baggy tops and long bottoms (don’t get me started on my huge calves and my knobbly knees!) Peri-menopause has changed me in many ways so stripping down to my underwear, walking across town and standing on the start line of the Leeds 10k did not come easily.
I thought people would laugh, I expected people to stare, I was certain there would be pointing but within minutes of leaving the safety of the hall we were offered nothing but support, cheers, congratulations and high fives. I can’t remember the moment I forgot I was wearing nothing but my knickers and a sports bra but somewhere on Kirkstall Road I felt the strongest I’ve ever felt. So proud of my body – so proud of the women who were around me, every size and shape had a story and every body had overcome mountains – and here we were on a sunny Sunday morning running down a road I drove down almost daily in nothing but our underwear.
I cried when we crossed the finish line – hand in hand with my equally scantily clad friends. I felt so empowered and strong. I never wanted the feeling to end. I never wanted to run a race in actual running clothes again!
Running the Leeds 10k made me realise that I was more than my shape. That my size didn’t define who I was. That people didn’t care if my belly wobbled or my knees were knobbly! That I was capable of so much more than I thought I was and that I could still do amazing, frightening, empowering things menopausal or not!
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Would I recommend running the Leeds 10k in your underwear? Absolutely!