Julie Cressfield with Too Fat To Run member

Too Fat To Run?

When she was in her mid-20s, Julie Creffield’s mate persuaded her to sign up for a 3k fun run. She weighed around 20 stone, was a card-carrying party girl, and hadn’t done any training at all.

As she’ll tell anyone, that race hurt. What hurt more though, was the comment made by one small boy.

“As I passed him on the course he shouted out, ‘Run fatty run!’" says Julie. “After the race I just sat in my car and cried." It wasn’t so much the insult about her weight that hurt, it was the realisation she needed to drastically improve her health and fitness.

I was embarrassed to be seen running in public

“I knew I had to do something about my lifestyle," she says. “So I entered the London Triathlon, and took up running more regularly. But I hated training. Mainly because I was embarrassed to be seen running in public. I’d go out at night or run on the treadmill so that people wouldn’t stare or make rude comments.

“After coming last in a race one day, I decided to blog about it. I realised there wasn’t enough information out there for people like me who wanted to run. I’d got over caring about my size and how fast or slow I was, and started to really love running. I wanted to help others enjoy it too."

Within six months, Julie’s blog, The Fat Girl’s Guide to Running, was attracting readers from across the globe.

Advice on where to buy plus-sized kit, the benefits of running for all shapes and sizes, and info on how the hell to get started made it a go-to site for those looking to take up the sport.

But that wasn’t enough. While on maternity leave with her now two-year-old daughter, Julie came up with the idea for One Big Fat Run to prove no-one is too fat to run.

Join One Big Fat Run

“Big Fat Run is a virtual 5k that takes place on the last weekend of the month," Julie explains. “It’s totally free and anybody can join in. Men, women, fat, thin – all you have to do is sign up on Facebook, plan a route near you and run, walk or jog it.

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“It really doesn’t matter how long it takes, it’s all about getting out there. Do it with your family, do it with the dogs, just enjoy it."

One Big Fat Run has proved so popular with the blog’s readers – who share run-selfies, support and advice on social media – that discussions are afoot about turning it into a ‘real life’ event, along the lines of parkrun.

The blog also boasts a virtual running club – The Clubhouse – which Julie started after attending a traditional running club and finding that “no-one looked like me".

Members can download training plans and e-books, and discuss issues affecting plus-size runners in a private forum.

The Fat Girl's Guide To Running merchandise

Too fat to run t-shirts

Let’s Get One Million Fat Women Running

“One of the best things about the blog is seeing people’s confidence grow," says Julie. “Many members are achieving things they never thought possible – I’m training four women to run a marathon, for example!

One of the best things about the blog is seeing people’s confidence grow

“Campaigns such as This Girl Can [showing on TV and billboards at the moment] are doing a fantastic job of promoting sport for all and empowering women to get out there and give it a go," she says. “I swear I’ve seen more women running since it launched.

My dream is to get one million larger women running. I want more people to realise that running is fun – and size is not a barrier."