The Race for Life

I didn’t go and cheer on the runners in the Race for Life this year. I’m sorry. Last year I did, and the year before, and the year before that, and so on. I only managed to find one woman to sponsor this year, but that wasn’t the reason I didn’t turn out. The Race for Life in Penzance is run along the promenade in the evening, and even in early summer, it can get a little chilly, waiting for the women one has sponsored to run, walk, or jog the five kilometres. This year, it was a sunny evening, but there was a cold northerly wind, and that was the reason I didn’t turn out. I stayed at home in the warm and drank wine instead. As I said, I’m sorry.
raceforlifebitsThe Race for Life and I have a history. Back in 2001 I ran the Exeter half marathon with my friend Lou and her friends Paula and Clare. The following day, Lou and I went into a running shop in Exeter (Ironbridge Runner), picking up leaflets, including one for the Exeter Race for Life. “This looks good,” I said. “5K in July.”
Lou laughed. “No good for you, Fran. It’s for women only.”
“Nah! A bit of strapping, a bit of padding, a bit of lippy, and no one’ll be able to tell.”
So I applied, as did Paula and Clare. Lou was going to run it too, but she left it too late, and all the places had gone. No one noticed that Frances was spelt Francis on the credit card, I was assigned a running number (74), and I set about sorting out the strapping and the padding, not in precisely that order. The lippy could wait till last. Various friends offered to lend me joke plastic breasts with tassels. I tried socks, which looked distinctly unnatural, and finally found some hemispherical sponges in Superdrug, which coincidentally came in packets of two. However, when I tried them in the sports bra I’d borrowed, they were alarming huge, and since they didn’t weigh much, not entirely convincing. I cut them in half, which looked better, and their lack of bounce would be less apparent. Provided it didn’t rain, they’d be fine.
When it came to the strapping, I could have worn baggy shorts, but given that I’m six feet tall with a 42 inch chest, I thought that figure hugging shorts with no bulge would be a better idea. If you’re squeamish, look away now. I tucked everything inside a panty liner, which was held in place with copious amounts of surgical tape. It lowered my crotch slightly, but I achieved the bulge-free line.
Meanwhile, sponsorship money was rolling in (and offers of joke breasts), as people whom I knew learnt of it. At the time I was doing an Indian Head Massage course, on which I was the only man. Useful practice, I suppose. Besides sponsoring me, my fellow students (beauticians) offered to wax my legs, underarms, etc. I shaved instead. They also advised me on moustache bleaching, which didn’t work, and I had to resort to foundation, leaving me looking a little like Fred Flintstone.
Gill did my hair in a suitably girlie style, and I headed for Exeter. As I didn’t know how easy it would be to redo the hair, I drove the 120 miles with my pink ribbon in, hoping I wouldn’t need to stop at the services for a pee. Lou assured me that she could reproduce the hairstyle in the morning, so I was able to revert to my normal ponytail.
raceforlifeOn the morning of the race Lou redid my hair, I shaved scrupulously, sorted out the padding and the strapping, applied my foundation and my lippy, and Lou drove me down to the start. The plan was for me to hook up with Paula and Clare, but there were so many women there that I couldn’t find them. 2000 women, according to the organisers. More like 1999, by my reckoning. With thoughts of the funeral scene from The World According to Garp haunting me, I tried to look inconspicuous. I did get some funny looks from my fellow runners, and when a woman fell over I didn’t stop to help, in case the others who’d stopped got too close a look at me, but it all went off well. It didn’t rain, so my sponge boobs didn’t suddenly quadruple in weight, and the strapping stayed in place. As I came in to the finish, I heard someone say, “Is that a man or what?” and the woman who handed me my medal gave me a funny look, but that was the closest I came to being caught. I found Lou, and made good my getaway.
A woman called Michele (who was collecting for Cancer Research outside Tesco’s a few weeks ago) wanted me to reprise my role in the Penzance Race for Life, but I said no. Very few people in Exeter would know me, but in Penzance there are plenty of people who’d recognise me straightaway, and some of them might feel offended at my taking part, for whatever reason. I did my bit, raised some money, had some fun, and I hope I didn’t offend anyone.

4 thoughts on “The Race for Life

  1. I have seen men run marathons in drag. It’s quite humorous. I don’t think anyone of take offense if they knew. Afterall, you did it for the cause and a good laugh

    • Thanks, Myriam. I did do it for the cause, and it was a good laugh, but some of the feedback I got afterwards wasn’t entirely positive. It seems that some people (women) don’t share your opinion and mine. Xx.

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