My journey so far: from couch to marathon by George Tester-Allen
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
George Tester-Allen is a gender queer athlete, Leader in Running Fitness, Founder, Chair of Brighton & Hove FrontRunners and Leader of Trans Pride Brighton's Couch to 5km.
Being asked to write a blog on running is something I never thought I'd be asked to do. For two reasons: the first being I cannot write very well (yay dyslexia!) The second being... running is something I only started doing some 18 months ago. And today, (lol!) I was even called an athlete, which, if I'm totally honest with myself, I don't think I am!
So, here goes! My first ever blog post on running; my journey thus far.
First of all a little bit about me (cringe!) I'm George, I'm 33 and I live in Brighton. I don't really have a preferred pronoun as I sort of flit between genders depending on how I'm feeling that day. I guess the label these days would be gender fluid, gender non conforming or even non binary, but labels have never really been an issue for me, so just George is fine! I live with my wife Sonia, two cats and our dog Juno, who is the absolute love of my life. Sonia and I have been together ten years and married for four.
Three years ago I was five stone heavier and had awful anxiety to the point where some days I couldn't leave the house without an anxiety attack. I had to do something about it as it was controlling my life. Being married to a personal trainer ALWAYS put me off. Fitness wasn't my thing, it was Sonia's. That's how everyone saw us, that's how it was!
Anyway, out of nowhere I decided to join a gym. To this day I don't even know where I found the courage to do so. Gyms are TERRIFYING places when you don't fit into the gender norm and you're overweight and you have anxiety... I think it was turning 30 that scared me and I knew I had to sort out not only my physical health but my mental health too.
To cut a very long story short I found a personal trainer who understood me. And Lord help the ones who didn't! I was even told by one that there are only two genders and that depended on what genitals you were born with. We totally clicked and she changed my life. And when you click with someone who's been through really similar life experiences who genuinely cares, they always stick! And boy, has she stuck!
I was encouraged to try running as it was something I wanted to do and enjoyed at school, but I didn't have the guts even when my fitness was better and my mental health was too. So, I did what most people do: I ran for a minute and walked for two. For twenty minutes. In the park, in the dark, so that no one could see me.
The goal was Hove Park park run; a free weekly 5km race all over the world. Again, the daunting thought of running with other people terrified me, so we practised the route, in the dark, twice before the main event. A few weeks later I completed my first ever 5km, in 47 minutes. I was thrilled and I was hooked!
Fast forward 12 months (I would bore you all with all the various races I've ran, medals bla bla bla bla but I'll spare you!) I joined a well known local run club and had the opportunity to apply to be a Leader In Running Fitness (a LIRF as we get called). I put together the reasons why I would make a good LIRF and got myself a place on the course. As well as leading many runs and being club captain, I also wanted to start up my own running group and give back to my community. Brighton & Hove FrontRunners was born.
When you don't fit into what society sees as 'normal' but have the experience and the confidence to help others, wonderful things start to happen. In April I completed Brighton Marathon. I would LOVE to brag about my amazing time, but my time was very real to me. I did it for personal reasons. It was a dream which I made into a goal and now it's a reality (and also feels like a dream again!)
Over the last few weeks I've been teaching Couch to 5km alongside Trans Can Sport and Trans Pride. I want to help people who were like me when I started out. Running has saved me. Yes, it's helped with my weight loss, but more importantly it's helped with my mental health too. It's made me realise that it doesn't matter what society thinks. I am living proof of that!
If anyone wants to drop me a message please feel free. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org