Athletics: Inverurie group prove sisters are doing it for themselves … fearlessly

Carol Wilson, third from left, at the UK launch of 261 Fearless

The first Scottish club in a global social running network for women is being set up in Inverurie.

Carol Wilson, who took up running to lose weight just over eight years ago, is behind the idea which she hopes will see more women involved in the sport.

She is hosting two information evenings at Garioch community centre to explain more about the proposal to establish Scotland’s first 261 Fearless club.

The first was held last night and the next is on January 17.

The 261 Fearless organisation is the brainchild of pioneering American distance runner Kathrine Switzer who hit the headlines almost 51 years ago when she became the first woman to officially enter and run in the Boston marathon.

At that time the famous American race was an exclusively all-male affair, but Switzer was able to secure a place by using only her first name initial on the entry form.

Race organisers were furious when they discovered her running in the race and tried to manhandle her off the course. Pictures of the incident were beamed all over the world and Switzer became a household name.

It also led to her becoming a prime mover in securing equality of opportunities for women in sport and she was the catalyst for the huge growth in the number of women taking part in and enjoying running events.

261 was the race number Switzer wore in that ground-breaking Boston marathon and it has now become a symbol for her latest venture which encourages women to have no fear about getting involved in running.

261 Fearless clubs have been set up in Austria, Albania, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Malta, Switzerland and the United States.

There are four clubs in Britain but the Inverurie one will be the first in Scotland.

Wilson is excited about getting the idea off the ground in the north-east after recently attending the official UK launch of the project.

She said: “The 261 launch was in London last month and it was very motivating.

“We had a skype call with Kathrine Switzer, which was amazing, and she actually shared my Inverurie 261 Fearless club facebook post.

“I have also been on one of their coaching courses to get the qualification to lead a group in Inverurie. It was held over a weekend in Manchester and I learned so much from it.

“It’s all about the empowerment of women through running. All the coaches at the clubs are women and the training techniques are specifically for women.

“There are still a lot of taboos around exercise and a lot of women still feel marginalised.

“Some will have self-confidence issues about their bodies and we are there to encourage them to overcome these fears.

“I know there are lots of clubs and jogging groups around, but some people will prefer to be involved if it’s only open to women. It’s also important to stress we are not competitive. It’s simply about getting active and enjoying it.

“I’ll have no problem if it’s only a small group to begin with, because I know these things can grow.

“After the information evenings I plan to hold the first practical session on January 24, again at Garioch community centre. After that there will be once-weekly sessions.

“The aim is to get some women together, get a good vibe going within the group, and have some fun. Hopefully it will develop through word of mouth.

“I’ve even heard that some people are hoping a similar group can be established in Aberdeen.”