This month has been a truly epic one for This Mum Runs. As many of you know, we are a community driven, people powered business. Yes we sell tee shirts and sweatshirts (and pretty cool ones as it happens – if you want to check them out, they’re here). But literally our reason for being is to make peoples lives better – to empower women to be healthier and happier.
In the grind of trying to keep the wheels turning, though – hitting sales numbers, paying bills, managing cash flow, sourcing suppliers, managing staff, responding to zillions of emails every single day – it is easy to forget why you started something in the first place. It’s lonely, its harder-than-hard work, there is constant self doubt.
I confess, in the past 6 months there have been times when i’ve been so weighed down by all of the above, I wasn’t sure if i could continue.
BUT. I am one of the lucky ones. I left (escaped) a successful corporate career because I hated the soul-less-ness of it. I worked 60 hours weeks, travelled 80,000 miles a year to….well, to line someone else’s pockets ultimately. I had felt for a long time that what was missing, was – without wanting to sound all cheesy – making a bit of a difference to the world. And I wanted to inspire women, change their lives, encourage them to do things they never felt they could. I wanted to feel what it was like to grow my own business from the ground up. And in This Mum Runs, I have experienced this in bucket loads.
If I ever needed a reminder of my ‘why’, then the events of the past few weeks are right there in technicolour smacking me around the chops with ‘this is why you fool!’ glee.
First the ‘Smeeathon’.
Julie Smee is one of our hugely valued and much beloved Runmakers. April 2018 was the 5 year anniversary of her breast cancer diagnosis and she wanted to celebrate beating it! So, she decided on a marathon. But not just any old marathon. We talked and came up with the idea of running 26.2 miles around Bristol, passing all the TMR meet up points along the way, and inviting our community to join in for as much or as little as they wanted to. She knuckled down and trained hard all through the bleak winter days.
And then the big day arrived. I joined her for the final 10 miles and as we ran, she was like the Pied Piper, with women streaming to run with her and to support her. It was absolutely incredible to see the support she got, how much people she barely knew cared about her.
She was hungry, and a little post into the TMR Facebook group led to the delivery of a cheese sandwich and a bag of nuts 5 minutes later. People had set up camp outside their homes with bottles of water and jelly babies at the ready. At 24 miles, her kids joined us and I wasn’t entirely sure I could hold it together. At the end, a sea of runners lined up and formed a tunnel that Julie ran through with women cheering her name.
Julie to me sums up what it means to have courage. She is relentlessly positive and loves nothing more than to support women at the beginning of their running journeys, as she knows how much running has changed her life. She has inspired and empowered so many others. The sense of community that day was tangible and emotional. It meant something special to every single person who took part. It summed up all that TMR means to me in one intense moment.
Last week, saw our tenth Run Angel training session, our team now numbers more than 400 volunteers. Run Angels are the heart beat and the rock stars of This Mum Runs. Without them, none of what we do would be possible. They give up their time week in week out to lead the hundreds of free local runs that take place every single week. Behind the scenes they co-ordinate rotas, carefully plan routes, worry about remembering the warm up, record runs, take selfies and think through creating the best possible experience they can for every single women who turns up to a run with us.
They truly rock and this led to the secretly named ‘Project Rockstar’ at TMR HQ. We started work on this about a year ago and the first step was a overhaul in our training.
It’s now a big commitment for those who do it – 4 or 5 hours long, it focusses on inspiring them as volunteers and helping them to feel part of a growing global movement. And on PEOPLE. Specifically the women in our community and what makes them tick, and the barriers and challenges they might face getting out for a run. Yes there is practical stuff too – warm ups, cool downs, safety. But we are trying to create an experience for actual human beings – that will inspire them come back and run with us time and time again; so this is what we spend most time on. We’ve worked really hard on the training over the past year and I am intensely proud of it and of everyone who completes it. I love the days when we deliver the training and seeing how much they enjoy it and get involved.
Watching our team gain their ‘wings’ and had off to lead their first runs, is one of the biggest pleasures that I get from running this business. This month we welcomed 45 new Angels – and we were buzzing after completing the sessions with them!
Our mission is to get hundreds of thousands of women in local communities around the world to connect and run together. These volunteers are the fuel that makes all of this happen and I could not be prouder of them.
We’ll soon be launching our Global Ambassador Programme that will mean we can launch groups and runs in towns and cities around the world – imagine that!
Last but not least, one of the highlights of my year that just gets bigger and bigger every year;
Now in its 3rd year, the Great Run Bristol 10K Practise Run (a bit of a mouthful, but you get what it means!). We started this event initially to support women who had never done a ‘race’ before – to prepare them for the big day. That was 12 people in year 1 and 70 last year. This year over 150 women turned up to run with us, and a team of 30 to manage. It takes heaps of planning and the team behind it always want to make sure everyone has a chance to have the run they want, to try out the route, to build their confidence ahead of the actual event. And in true TMR spirit, to make sure that no-one gets left behind.
Wednesday night was EPIC. There is simply no other word for it. It was flippin epic!
Standing in front of a huge crowd of women ahead of their run, knowing that many of them would never have previously even considered a 10k possible, and watching their nerves and excitement as they chatted with new friends, is – aside from making my heart race at a million miles an hour – absolutely everything that all of this is about for me!
- Inspiring women to give something new a try
- Giving them the confidence and skills to do it
- Helping them to make new friends
- Building a network of support that keeps them going
Now if something’s worth getting out of bed for, that is surely it!
I will never forget turning back to look along the A4 and watching a Tsunami (Tsumami?!) of women streaming down the road as far as the eye could see.
I had many conversations with women that evening who’s lives have been utterly transformed by running and by the TMR community. The messages we have received this week from women telling us they could not have done it without TMR have been just amazing – and I cannot wait to repeat events like these all over the world.
I will hold on to the memories of this month for a very long time. When times are hard, which they inevitably will be, when I think about giving up, I will remember this moment.
If I doubt myself and my ability to grow this into a global movement (which I do, and often), your stories and these photos will keep me going.
I will never ever give up.
When Heather Small next asks, “What have you done today, to make you feel proud?”, I will sing back at the top of my lungs “Plenty Heather, bloody plenty”.
To find out more about This Mum Runs and our plans for world domination, head to our website www.thismumruns.co.uk If you would like to find out more about launching runs in your local area, you can click here to register your details.