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Pursuing my curiosity-Running: Women Behind The Network Female Leaders At 50 Series introducing Katie Holmes

When I started my blog at the age of 50, I was setting off on a journey with curiosity and excitement. Curious to find out more about the experiences of older female runners and their participation in running. Excited about learning new skills and developing my writing, adapting it to a different format.

 

Why write about older women? Women over fifty are not often in the public eye, in fact it can feel that we are invisible. We don’t know much about older women’s experience of participating in sport or their attitudes to exercise. 

 

I started by interviewing female runners over fifty because I wanted to share and give value to their storiesand to celebrate their achievements.

 

The six women I’ve interviewed, aged from 50 to over 70 have diverse running biographies. Two of them have been runners for most of their adult lives, four started running after the age of 40. Their motivations for running vary but they have all found a community of friends through running. By continuing to run into their fifties, sixties and seventies, all six women could be said to be exceptional. Society’s expectations are that older women, and, to a lesser extent, men, will become less active and enfeebled by ageing. Instead these women have become more active and stronger. They are also making themselves visible by running at parkrun, at races, on the track and on the streets.

 

Another way in which I give prominence to older women’s stories is through my curated list of blogs by female runners over 50 from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. I’m always on the lookout for more blogs to add to the list.

 

Quite early on I branched off into a new area of interest. After hearing interviews with pioneering female marathon runners on the Marathon Talk podcast, I became interested in the history of women’s endurance running and have published several articles about this on my blog. For decades women were excluded from endurance sports on the grounds that they did not have the strength, that their gynaecological health would suffer and that getting hot and sweaty was unfeminine and unbecoming for women. Women were prohibited from running more than 200m at the Olympics from 1928 to 1960, and the women’s marathon was not added to the programme until 1984. 

 

My aim is to find out about and record the stories of the trailblazing female runners who challenged the status quo and showed what women could achieve in the face of limited opportunities and prejudice. They built the foundations for women’s running today and their history deserves to be better known. 

 

Along the way, I’ve developed a network through social media, connecting with people I would otherwise never have reached. Their areas of expertise or interest overlap with mine in one or more ways. I’ve connected with academics in the fields of sports history, sociology and sports science; with campaigners raising awareness of the perimenopause and menopause; with physiotherapists, nutritionists, athletes and coaches; with lots of runners including world record holders and Olympians; and, of course, with many active women over 50. These connections have enriched my writing, especially in the area of running history, and encouraged me to continue.

 

Five years on, where will my blog journey take me now? Turning 50 did not feel like a big milestone for me but turning 55 has. I feel more keenly aware of the limited time that I have left to achieve what I want to through my blog. I feel that I have something important to say and that what I am doing is worthwhile. I am not sure whatmy destination will be, but I do know that I’m going to pursue it.

 

Katie Holmes, www.RunYoung50.co.uk

 

 

 

Notes on an achievement- Ciara Moore

I’ve just completed a 50k.

I trained but I didn’t train as hard or as much as I had planned or hoped. While I had hoped to run all of it, I ran half of it and walked the remainder.

What was brilliant about that crazy run/walk was it was done at my pace under my terms and as a result I felt wonderful for it.

I wanted to finish as strong as I started and I did. This became my mantra.

However, I’m already telling you about the tip of the iceberg when I should be telling you about the bottom of it and all that preparation to get to the tip to that sweet moment of success.

With the Covid pandemic and working in a busy NHS role training did go out the window Due to long days on virtual meetings. My walks or runs at weekends became sacred due to lockdown.

The focus on the 50 K helped me remain focused on something else during the pandemic. It was going to be a point in time to celebrate my daughters 16th birthday. With the race happening in Windsor at Easter. However due to the pandemic this was cancelled. The date now a day working in the hospital. An Easter Saturday weekend.

I really wanted to mark the day. In my imagined parallel universe I was completing that race . I wanted some positivity to come out of the spiralling pandemic that we were in. I sent a tweet to the world asking them to walk or run 1k for for me and tweet a picture of themselves running with their mileage.and it responded. I imagined I would probably get a few people responding the response was overwhelming. The response predominantly came due to Running Man Jones who through his followers helped create a wave of positivity on that day.. I even had a hash tag #1KforCiara.

I came out of work after that long day my Twitter feed was full. Full of wonderful messages, heartfelt and sincere with pictures of these wonderful people who had run 1 km from me. I cried as I read them with pride, for all of them and that positivity that they had created this wonderful thing. Over 500 km was clocked up and it truly was a worldwide event with posts from America, India, Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe.

The event by now was rescheduled, set for 12th of September which is my sons birthday. Sadly, again, cancelled. This time I wasn’t going to be working at the on the date and as I was raising money for charity I decided I would do the 50 K by myself around my normal running routes in Cambridge.

In the last month my training really picked up mainly as I had this date looming ahead and a target!. I was out running or training at least every other day for two hours at a time.

Oddly, the treadmill became my best friend and the treadclimber a close second. This second machine allowed me train for longer but with less effort on my joints. Helping me maintain that mantra finish as strong as you start.

I’m also conscious I’m 51 and body and bones are not as strong as they were in my 20s.

However I felt strong and that is what was really, really important.

But where to run and how to keep it interesting? I normally just go off running up through the fens but I was conscious that out on my own I had no back up and I need access to people in case anything happens. I started to map old routes and new around the city and the fens and cycling or walking miles, testing the distance.

Close to the day I still had not decided on tne exact route. I did a 32 km walk with my faithful hound Conall took my time as we paced out a route, got scared by several cows (twice) and delightedly realised I was ready for the following week.

The morning of the run before the sun rose my kit ready I got ready, ate a hasty breakfast and left the house. Not before passing the hound looking at me reproachfully for not taking him, past the pile of birthday presents for my son who was under strict instructions not to open them till I returned. My aim was to be home for lunch, and likely only an hour or so after the household woke up. I wasn’t going to be missed.

I started off taking the pace easy, enjoying the fresh cool morning and I ran steadily, each 5K I clocked up my heart excitedly flipping with joy. I managed my longest run of 25 km after thinking I could never do that distance in my life.

However it was never going to be a challenge without being challenging and so between 25k and 30k I struggled to keep running. By this time I was out on the fen trying to steady myself on the uneven ground, my legs wobbly.

Rather than force myself to keep running I reverted to jog, walk jog walk with the mantra in my head finish as strong as you started.

Stupidly, I didn’t bring sufficient water and started to dehydrate at about 35K. This slowed me down distracting me as hydration then became my focus.

A local pub in Fen Ditton kindly filled my bottle with orange juice and lemonade. I think I can honestly say it was the best drink I have had all year.

I finally completed the distance in my village, my legs tired but no injuries. I took a picture of my finishing point looking out across a field towards Wandlebury and I remember thinking now what? I felt almost a little lost.

I walked slowly home.

On arriving home I was straight back into celebrating a birthday with my boy. My race seen by the family as no more than my usual Saturday exercise. No celebrations, no balloons no medal, though I did afford myself one glass of champagne.

If I had allowed it I could have seen the end of the race as an anti-climax. If anything it has made me realise how capable our bodies are of doing things even when we are older that we don’t think we are capable of. It was the first time I didn’t stress myself out about being fast or slow or “ploddy.” The only person I was competing with was myself. I listened to my body, trusted my training and kept to my mantra “finish as strong as you start.” This didn’t necessarily mean run the whole 50 K (now that would’ve been amazing) It meant to finish in a positive, happy frame of mind. It meant being able to walk later in the day to celebrate a birthday with no aches and pains so as not detract attention from the birthday boy and it meant being able to go for a long walk the next day with my hound.

On a positive note I haven’t let up my training regime which I usually drop immediately after an event. I walk as much as I can and now the gyms are open I am finding new machines that will help me with sustaining and improving my stamina. It is difficult to know what to sign up for as a challenge next when all the challenges seem to be cancelled. However, what I will do in a few weeks time is test myself again on gently running 25K. Who knows I may even get to 30k …..finishing as strong as I start.

make a life out of what you have, Not what you are missing – Ciara Moore

You make a life out of what you have, Not what you are missing – Kate Morton

I have spoken several times on growth mindset widely known through research done by Carol Dweck . This quote “you make a life out of what you have, not what you are missing” by Kate Morton from her book The Forgotten Garden resonated with me as a big part of growthmindset. Growth mindset is where individuals believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others). They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).

You may have a growth mindset however you may also feel you’re missing out on things in life as you wait for your hard work on strategies to be developed.

How often have you experienced, that as soon as you stop looking for something unobtainable it came? As soon as you stopped looking for that one person to “complete” you they were there. As soon as you stopped looking for that job a better opportunity came.

However by setting aside or to not focus on what you are missing doesn’t mean you stop applying yourself. In part I think we need to settle into the journey or process of life. of becoming. The process of making the best of what we are and have.

A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work. ~ Colin Powell, former U.S. Defense Secretary

It’s important to voice or check what you feel you are missing out on and why. Are you so focused on what you feel is missing that life is passing you by?

If it is materialistic goods why would they make your life better?

Is it wishing that you were more personally successful at work?

Is what you’re missing even achievable?

The here and now is all we have, and if we play it right it’s all we’ll need.

Ann Richards

Stepping back and really thinking about what you’re missing is a real big step in growth mindset.

Sometimes what you’re missing may be just round the corner but you’re not there yet in terms of training, education, experience emotional preparedness . Maybe you are not experienced enough for that job. If so what do you need to do to ensure you get the job that’s for you not what you think you are missing.

Settle into your current career, do it to the best of your ability, keep an eye on the future but don’t stress about it, don’t stress about that “job” not coming up.

Review what is truly important and necessary from what is merely nice to have and choose to let go some of the things that don’t add value to the quality of your life.

Settle into your emotional journey focus on the people around you, continue to learn. Sometimes what we’re missing is not actually what we’re looking for or need. On speaking with many women in my network they tell me that as they raised their families they have felt they missed out on time for themselves. When their children grow up and leave they’re missing the activity or interest to fill that time.They have been given that missing time to themselves that they fervently felt they missed and often do not know what to do with it.

The point is to be in the moment, not miss the moment while trying to capture it.

Sheralyn Pratt,

So apply growth mindset

Enjoy the process

Make the time to keep your interests going.

Spend time thinking and planning goals.

Consider what you can improve .

After all as Eleanor Roosevelt wrote

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

The Greatest Gift – Liz Needleman BT Group Regional Director – Women Behind The Network Female Leaders At 50

Liz Needleman : BT Group Regional Director North

Getting older has never bothered me, aside from a minor blip when I was about to turn 40.  Happily it disappeared on the morning of my 40th birthday, which turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant anti-climax.  Fifty was an excuse for numerous parties and despite Facebook sending me funeral ads, I didn’t really bat an eyelid.

I put this down to a number of factors: my husband is 9 years older than me, meaning I am a perpetual Spring chicken, relatively speaking; a group of wonderful life-long friends who both remind me of some of the idiocy of my youth as well as making sure we relive parts of it on a regular basis; and adult children who refuse to let me take myself too seriously.

There is one element to being over 50 however of which I am increasingly conscious : time speeds up.

By that I don’t mean ‘Gosh, hasn’t this year flown by?’ (although it has).  I mean that I realise that time is an increasingly precious commodity. I am much more aware of having to actively carve out time for the things that I want to do, otherwise days and weeks just sort of…go.

I was in my last organisation for a long time, and while I didundoubtedly learn and grow professionally, and enjoyed many happy years, I think it’s fair to say that my rate of development slowed down.  I felt very comfortable, and stopped thinking about the next step.  I was frenetically busy and dealing with multiple issues and challenges but stopped feeling any particular sense of achievement.  One month followed the next.

Joining BT last year, after 15 years out of the sector, has been very good for me.  It put me on a steep learning curve. I regained a sense of awareness of how much I had to learn, and a sense of wanting to make each day count.  I know that sounds pompous and I don’t mean it to – I suppose it’s just that going through a significant change professionally has refocused me.

This has bled into my personal life as well, helped partly I think by the experience of lockdown.  The first few months went by in a blur, and while I never subscribed to the belief that we should all take the opportunity to better ourselves by learning to paint or speak Chinese, I did feel I should use the time to do something.

The something ended up being the Couch to 5k.  My body is not a temple.  I like a glass of wine in the evening, followed by another, and the first few weeks were a far from joyful experience.  I plodded on however, both literally and metaphorically, and having completed it am still hauling myself round the park about 4 times a week.  (Gosh, you must have lost weight, I hear you all think – nope, not at all).  I do, however, very occasionally and for some fleeting moments, not completely hate it.

Where am I going with this?  My experience has not been unique and I have no blinding insights to astound you with, but I do feel that doing something new is increasingly important.  As much as anything else it stops you thinking that you can’t.

So in conclusion I would suggest you guard your time ferociously. Recognise it as the greatest gift you can give to someone or something, and be unapologetically selective. Bythe same token acknowledge and appreciate the time that people choose to share with you. And if you want to stay where you are in life because it suits you, then good for you, and I hope you do so happily and as an active choice. In my experience, it’s worth taking some of your valuable time to think about it.

Starting with me – Leadership, Home, Motherhood: Esther Kuku. Our second anniversary special edition blog from our Women Behind the Network Series

Starting with me…

Working life

The morning after my wedding,  I woke up next to my husband in our hotel honeymoon suite, I was living the dream. Not long after there was a knock on the door and my new step-children charged into the room, my heart sank. I longed for the romance of a first family experience, suddenly it all felt like a nightmare, on day one.

The biggest leadership training ground I have encountered, thus far,` has been my home. The founder of Visa, Dee Hock said, if you want to lead, invest 40% of your time in leading yourself.

His overarching principle is that without exceptional management of self, no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire.

The first few years of being a step parent I had to learn to keep my mouth shut and just be patient. Gosh, it was so hard. After all, I was the entitled newly-wed, desperate to be the perfect wife and step-mum. I wanted to change everything in our home – immediately; I moved into the house my husband lived in with his ex wife.  I wanted new rules – new wall paper, new everything. Well that wasn’t going to work – it wasn’t long before I could see the negative impact my management of our home was having on us all.

And, most importantly on my bonus babies – who were 6 and 8 when I married their dad and had gone through a divorce.  

Born out of loss, or failure, step families can be complex and exhausting. The reality is that for many couples it’s through re-designed dreams and re-packaged plans a new-life unfolds. A new life that needs time to adapt and grow. Flexibility and respect  for difference are better predictors of success than trying to force togetherness and just becoming exhausted in the process. I was pushing too much.

The principles of not forcing relationships, or togetherness and having respect are very transferrable to leadership in a working environment.  We don’t have to like our bosses, but we do have to do what they say. If you have a step-child they don’t have to like you, but they do have to respect you when they are in your house. And, if you are a step-parent the most important people are the children – they do have to come first. 

I’ve had a few jobs and being a step-mum has been the hardest one of all, but also incredibly rewarding. Investing time in leading myself means I’ve learnt to invest time in managing my emotions that what I want most is not to be right, but to be happy. ( I am right, most of the time…).

Today, I have four children who follow me because they are inspired by who I am – not by what I do. In fact none of them really care what I do. When I leave the house to go to work every morning. They just want to know I’m coming home and that it’s a peaceful home.

 If I can ensure that peace for the majority of the time, then I think I’m doing ok on my leadership journey.

— 

Esther Kuku
love God, love life, love people.

Twitter: @mew36