From 'hard' first mile to marathon runner

Julie Wright.

Passionate about getting people active

Julie Warner, 47 – aka JAW – is a Specialist Mentor within Student Wellbeing at the University of Derby. She was also the leading female employee on the Derbyshire Workplace Challenge Leaderboard for the period January to March 2015.

Outside of work, she is passionate about helping to motivate people to get active. A keen triathlete, Julie's also had to go back to square one with her own fitness after a cycling accident last year.

This April she ran the London Marathon raising money for Macmillan Cancer Care and has raised almost £800 when including gift aid so far.

We talked to her about motivation, being part of a team and getting active no matter what your fitness level.

'I remember how hard my first mile was'

I started running in 2004. The father of one of the guys in my office had been diagnosed with cancer and he rounded us up to do the Great North Run for Cancer Research. I didn't run but thought, 'Stuff it. I can always walk it.'

I vividly recall the first whole mile I managed to run without stopping. I remember how hard it was, but that sense of achievement is a feeling I've never forgotten. I want other people to feel that good and experience that link between effort and accomplishment that so often we can't control in our lives.

Motivation versus commitment

Sir Dave Brailsford – former manager of Team GB's Cycling Squad – talks about the difference between motivation and commitment. When it's sunny, motivation is easy to find. It is when it is raining and blowing a hoolie that you need commitment. You have to own it and want to do it to get something out of it.

I have an under-active thyroid so exercise is a great way to keep my weight down. So for me being active is about being able to eat more cake and improving my mood so I'm a nicer person to be around.

Be part of a team

I make work fit around exercise. I've often worked shifts and now work part-time. I have to go to work but to do the best I can and be fit and well and concentrate at work, I need to exercise.

The Workplace Challenge leaderboard isn't the driver for me. In fact, last year I didn't sign up at first because I train a lot anyway. I do the London Marathon each year and I thought it might be demotivating for other people. But then my colleagues asked me to join up as part of the team and I really liked that because it's doing it with them and supporting them, rather than making it harder for them. I'm happy to be part of the University of Derby team again this year.

Be the best you can

I represented GB as an age grouper when I did triathlon. But that doesn't make me any better than someone doing their first park run. It's about doing the best I can. That's why it's so nice to be able to encourage new people into sport - whatever you're doing is fine - give it what you've got.

Last year I had a life-changing accident. The recuperation is ongoing. I'm on painkillers and doing physio. I had a few weeks where I couldn't do anything. My 15 minute loop with the dog took me 45 minutes. I started setting dog walking personal best challenges for myself and then after a couple of months I started running again but I still can't cycle or swim.

Have a go or you'll never know

My advice for anyone is to do what you can do. Aim high but be realistic. Have short term goals and then extend your horizons – whether it's going faster or further.

Women do have more barriers to sport. So many women worry about getting red-faced and sweaty and their legs looking fat. Instead of lycra that makes them feel self-conscious, they'll wear loose trouser that get heavy and damp in the rain and chafe. That's why #ThisGirlCan is good.

If you don't go and try, you'll never know. Exercise and sport should be a way to feel better about yourself, not a stick to beat yourself with. Being active in the outdoors is the best way to look after yourself. I won't ever be as fast as Paula Radcliffe but that doesn't mean I won't be pleased with my marathon time.

You can still support Julie's Macmillan Cancer cause by clicking here.

To find out how you can start jogging or running, visit JOG Derbyshire.