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Marc O'Sullivan
Louise McSharry

'When you have a certain body type it's easy to feel exercise isn't for you - and that's a problem'

2FM radio presenter Louise McSharry told us why she decided to become an ambassador for the Dublin Rock n’Roll Marathon.
‘I thought there were people who ran and people who didn’t run and I was definitely a person who didn’t run.’ – Louise McSharry

RTÉ RADIO PRESENTER Louise McSharry inspired many when she went public about her cancer diagnosis and her subsequent against-the-odds pregnancy.

And with the release of her book, Fat Chance, she started a conversation about weight, fat shaming, and the struggles many women go through with their body image thanks to cultural and societal pressures.

Now she has signed on to become an ambassador for the Affidea Dublin Rock n’Roll Marathon, something that in the past she would have thought was impossible for her.

But for McSharry, it’s a chance to achieve a personal goal – and show that society’s idea of what sort of people ‘can’ or ‘should’ exercise can be totally skewed.

‘People told me it changes their life’

The seed for her running training was sown during her pregnancy with son Sam, who was born to the DJ and her husband Gordon Spierin last year.

“While I was pregnant I decided that running was something that I wanted to try,” McSharry told “I’ve always seen it as this absolutely impossible thing, I thought there were people who ran and people who didn’t run and I was definitely a person who didn’t run.

I’d hear stories from people who say they love it and it changed their life, and I had always wished I could be one of those people. But then last year when I did the radio show for Operation Transformation I would have met a lot of people involved in running and they taught me that you can learn to run and that people don’t start the finished product, and it’s more accessible than I thought previously.

It was an interview with the founder of the Parkrun series – a 5k weekly free run that takes place in countries around the world, including Ireland – Paul Sinton-Hewitt that really got McSharry thinking that running could be for her.

“He was telling me about the ethos of the Parkrun and it sounds like it’s this welcoming weekly thing that lots of people do – people start walking, people help you to learn how to do it properly. He had this attitude that was so welcome and encouraging it made me think that maybe it wasn’t just for some people.”

When she was approached to be an ambassador for the Rock n’Roll Marathon (she’s also a judge for the Rock n’Roll idol competition) it was a “no-brainer” – particularly given that music is involved.

McSharry admits it’s a bigger challenge than she originally planned – she’s going to run the 10k rather than the 5k – but she’s more than up for it.

Finding inspiration 

The adage ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ has also played a role in this new step for McSharry, who found that seeing other women with a similar body type taking on running was an inspiration.

“When you have a certain type of body it’s very easy to fall into the idea that exercise isn’t for you, and it’s a really big problem in my opinion,” said the DJ. “It’s all down to the way exercise is marketed – the only images we have seen until recently of people who are exercising are people who are very thin and very athletic, and if you never see yourself represented in that world it’s hard to see yourself in that world.”

Even buying exercise clothing if you’re above a certain size can be a prohibitive task. Companies are beginning to cotton on to this: McSharry noted that Nike recently announced that it’s expanding its plus size range, which it said was proof it was celebrating athletes’ diversity.

download (24) Women's Running Women's Running

McSharry has also followed as magazines like Women’s Running similarly decided to embrace the fact runners come in all shapes and sizes. Instead of only putting women of a certain athletic build on its front cover, it has started to include a range of body types, more accurately reflecting the diverse running community.

Does McSharry want to be an inspiration for others who would have thought running wasn’t for them? “I would love that,” she said, emphasising that this is because she would like to pay forward the inspiration she received from others.

She is set to start her training soon (with a young baby, she’s hoping the three-runs-a-week schedule will be doable), but intends on documenting her journey on social media. The fact that the run is in August means that there’s plenty of time to train.

“That’s why I am happy to talk about it this much,” she said. “The event is a long way off so it’s not unrealistic for for people. We can all be there together as beginners on the day.”

‘I’m a work in progress’

In her book and online, Louise has discussed how her thoughts around body image and fitness have evolved. She has realistic opinions about the proliferation of ‘fitspo’ accounts on Instagram, for example.

“Unless you have the time to dedicate your life to fitness you are never going to look like someone who does,” she said. For her, obsessing over trying to be a different body shape than that which comes most naturally to her just “is not worth it” – as life is about more than her weight.

It’s about how much we value ourselves in terms of our physical form. If I value myself purely down to how I look in terms of what my body looks, of course I am going to dedicate my life to whatever the ‘fashionable’ body looks at that time, but it’s not that important to me and I’ve worked hard to make sure it’s not important to me.

“I’ve been that person who is obsessing over what I eat and getting exercise done… I am not nice, I am not fun, I am not enjoying my life [when I'm like that]. That does not work for me.”

“I am definitely a work in progress myself,” she added, but notes that since her book came out she has had more discussions with friends about body image issues.

“I am really grateful for it - I think it’s great we have these conversations. And not everyone agrees and that’s OK.”

She’s hoping to get a group of beginner runners together to train for the 10k, emphasising that for people who want to take part in the races, getting started early is best. “For me it’s very important this isn’t a high pressure horrible thing. I want to enjoy it so because I have all this time I can take it slowly. With my running programme, if I want to do week one again, I can.”

How will she feel crossing the finish line? “When I do it I know that I’m going to feel so proud of myself as it’s something I thought in no way would I ever ever be able to do. Now I feel it’s opening a whole realm of possibility for me.”

And if she decides that running isn’t for her, McSharry said that’s fine too – because it’s the taking part that’s her main aim.

The fifth annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon will return the weekend of 12-13 August 2017 and serves as the Irish National Half Marathon Championships.

As part of the weekend, there will be a 5K, 10K and a 3K family fun run. There will also be live bands along each mile, as well as a concert in the Phoenix Park. For more information, visit or follow @RnRDublinHalf on Twitter.

Read: Louise McSharry spoke powerfully about body shaming on the Ray D’Arcy Show>

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