Gutsy Girls plan to run London Marathon in their underwear
Bryony Gordon explains how she and a plus-size model ended up training to run the London Marathon in just their underwear later this month
Like all my favourite stories, this one starts with me meeting a gorgeous woman, and ends with us both in our underwear. That’s just a joke. Sort of.
Last May, I was introduced to Jada Sezer, the plus-size model, over a table of sports bras in a LuluLemon shop.
The brand had invited us both on a yoga weekend, and I had accepted because of the promise of free leggings.
As a curvier lady, I love leggings. They’re just so . . . stretchy.
Anyway, we were also offered a free bra, which is when I met Jada – both of us rooting through mounds of A, B and C cups in search of something “roomier”.
As is so often the case with plus-size items, there was only one H cup on the table. I let her have it. A beautiful friendship was born.
I had just completed the London Marathon (did I mention I ran a marathon?) and was still a bit high from the experience.
Jada was intrigued as to how I, a woman officially classed as obese if you took BMI into consideration, had got on running 26.2 miles (42km).
I told her the truth: that it had been one of the best days of my life, and that the training had completely transformed my outlook on things.
When I started my journey to the marathon in October 2016, I was almost 16½ stone (105kg) and couldn’t run for a bus. I didn’t think I would be able to do exercise without being laughed at – I thought only slim people were afforded that privilege. I didn’t know how to make the jump from sofa surfer to park runner and frankly, it seemed an impossible task.
Then work sent me on a boot camp, and I realised I had no choice: my fitness journey began. It was transformative.
Physically, I lost almost 3st (19kg) (though the BMI still classed me as obese, just). Mentally, I gained a lot more. I was telling Jada all of this as we walked to another yoga session that weekend, and she casually mentioned that she’d love to run a marathon, even though she’d never really run before.
“I’ll do it with you!” I said, jumping up and down on the spot. “I will pass on what I was lucky enough to learn!” So that was that. Except it wasn’t.
Jada’s hectic modelling schedule (she has worked with brands including L’Oréal, Asos and Nike) meant she was often out of the country, so we only began training together properly in February.
There is something very bonding about being forced out of your comfort zone with someone
As we ran longer and longer distances, we got to know one another better. There is something very bonding about being forced out of your comfort zone with someone.
Jada, I learnt, grew up in London and had started studying psychology after her father died of cancer. She was using her platform as a plus-size model to do some work in mental health, so it made sense that we ran for Heads Together, the charity I had run with last year that was set up by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
We were keen to show curvier girls the benefits of exercise on body confidence – to prove that you didn’t have to look like a gym bunny or a professional athlete to run.
It was out on a 10-miler that we came up with the idea: what if we ran the marathon in our underwear? To show people that curvy girls could do it – even those classed as clinically “obese” or overweight? And to show, as plainly as possible, that exercise is for everyone, and all bodies look different.
“We could call ourselves the Gutsy Girls!” beamed Jada, rubbing her tummy. Heads Together and the Royal Foundation didn’t seem too upset by our idea – in fact, they seemed positively enthusiastic about it. Team Gutsy Girls was go.
And so, come April 22, Jada and I will take to the streets of London in little more than a pair of knickers and a bra.
When we tell people this, they tend to look at us in wide-eyed amazement. Between us we have a lot of boob and bum; a fair amount of thigh, and a whole lot of front. But we don’t see a problem. People run the Virgin London Marathon dressed in rhino suits or with washing machines strapped to their backs all the time.
In just a bra and knickers, our proposal seemed easy in comparison.
Plus, elite sportswomen run in little more than this: why shouldn’t we slow coaches at the back too?
“Because elite sportswomen have thigh gaps,” my inner critic tells me, “and you don’t. And when you don’t have a thigh gap, you get thigh rub. Or chafing. What are you? Mad?” Yes. Yes I am.
We contacted a few sportswear brands and let them know about our plans: Runderwear, who make sweat-wicking knickers that promise not to chafe, and Elomi, who make seriously strong, high-impact sports bras for bigger busted women.
Then we bought a lot of Vaseline, and flew out to Ibiza to The Body Camp (the bootcamp that I first went to back at the beginning of my marathon journey), where the team there devised a 15-mile route for us to practise in our knickers and bra. We figured we needed a test run, and that it was probably safer to do it on the Balearic Isle where anything goes (and the weather is better), than back in freezing Britain, where we would probably be arrested.
We slathered on a whole lot of petroleum jelly, took a deep breath and walked outside, where our Bodycamp friends were ready to cheer us on our way. We hugged, and realised that hugging while covered in Vaseline is not a great idea. And then we went on our way.
It’s different, running in just your underwear. I didn’t realise quite how much leggings suck you in. But the sensation of my flab jigging jollily up and down actually became quite therapeutic: I was really working out my body. We ran past restaurants and along beaches. Nobody batted an eyelid. We even went through a building site, where the workmen seemed completely unbothered by our outfits.
Only one passing car beeped its horn at us – and that was to highlight the need for us to get the hell out of the road.
We applied more Vaseline every half-hour, as we took our isotonic gels and glugs of water.
Four hours later, we arrived back at the Bodycamp feeling completely free – of chafing, of sunburn (we were also covered in factor 50) and of inhibitions.
Obviously, running in central London in April will be a bit different. But if it helps even one woman feel more positive about herself, and encourages just one person to get out and go for a run, then it will be worth it.
We will see you on the start line in just under a month – wobbly bits and all.
To sponsor Bryony and Jada, go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GutsyGirls. – The Daily Telegraph