Ever dreamt about signing up for a marathon but self-doubt got in the way? Jada Sezer, mental health campaigner and internationally-renowned plus-size model is here to tell you her story behind signing up for the London Marathon and why you should never tell yourself you can’t do something… EVER.

Last year I was invited on a trip organized by the sportswear brand Lululemon and without know much more than the date, I agreed to go. The other guests invited were very lovely, one, in particular, being Bryony Gordon; a renowned journalist, author, mental health advocate and fearlessly honest about life’s up and more importantly, downs.

Over a table of sports bras at a Lululemon store, we bonded over big boob support tips and she told me she had recently run the London Marathon. I was astounded, she wasn’t like the muscular athletes associated with running long distance. Or the ones I usually see effortlessly prancing by, while I heave for air running for a bus…she looked like me. In awe, I said I would love to run a marathon. The next day she signed me up.

Throwing myself into the deep end tends to be a habit. 5 years ago, when studying my MA in child psychology I was working with young people, many of which suffered from various mental illnesses triggered by the mainstream media. I felt it my duty to put my jiggly size 16 body in front of the camera and campaign for diversity. If you have the strength and courage to embrace the parts about you society deems unworthy then I believe it’s a duty to help people who aren’t as confident to start thinking more positively about themselves.

My images went viral on social media, leading to being ironically signed to my first modelling agency and thus begun my career as a plus-size model. Over the last 5 years, I’ve worked as a model, promoting body diversity and self-confidence working with brands like L’Oreal, ASOS and Nike.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve learnt that putting yourself on the line in vulnerable uncomfortable spaces is where the greatest growth happens. It all starts and ends in our mind. Unless its cake, which ends up quite quickly in my belly, yummmm cake. My mind said ‘you can do anything’ and so the marathon journey began.

Training began easily, partly because another incredible human I met from the Lululemon retreat Mr Charlie Dark introduced me to one of his running groups, ‘The Run Dem Crew’. His welcoming and caring energy got me confident enough to turn up (the hardest step). But I instantly felt like I was in safe hands. We ran 7 miles with the slowest group, who like Charlie made me instantly feel like apart of the family. Running became less scary and more of a social event filled with chit chat and laughter. Almost forget I was running.

When I couldn’t make the crew, one of the members Kai Wright would run with me. We’d cover between 7-9 miles and I’d nag his ear off the entire way, luckily he never tired of my voice. Running became such an interesting way to learn about new people, their dreams, the reasons they started running, what inspires them and what they eat. I’d never look at the time and would always tell Kai to never tell me the route he planned to take me on.

Every run I did I would try to make sure it was a positive experience. Either new interesting people or I’d play a new podcast, or a feel-good playlist, or ran through scenery that inspired me. I called this highjacking your brain. What would make this run more interesting than the last? There’s no point in doing anything in life that you truly hate… it will just motivate you further to crawl back into bed.

So finally the day came when there was no Run Dem Crew, no Kai, no Bryony, no one. Who could I bribe to keep me company and chat with me for 10 miles? No one. I had to set out alone.

The one experience of running alone, many years ago down the streets of London was having my wobbly body bouncing around whilst wolf whistling men drooled out their white vans at my slow sweaty gallop. However, this time I didn’t care, the training schedule on my path to the marathon was far more important than a pervy catcall. Besides, there are peaceful back roads and heavy-duty headphones that I quickly adapted to block out the noise. You take the end goal, break it down into bite-sized chunks, then figure out a way to take the first little leap. Avoiding the problem rather than avoiding the run became the strategy and off I went, pounding the pavements.

I believe your mind can convince you into believing you can do anything. So, I have great training buddies, mind-distracting podcasts, a calendar with all my runs pencilled in but with the flexibility to change the day if I felt tired, I respected the days when I was tired, I had man-blocking headphones and snacks (lots of snacks).

Then came the dreaded day… an old injury flared up. My resilient mindset started to crack. There are some things your brain can’t convince you of, like not having excruciating pain in your legs. These things happen, I was told to rest and had to respect it. But it bloody sucked. Your body feels like it’s failing you and for the first time a voice in my head said ‘maybe you cant run a marathon’.

Anyway 3 months on, 2 half marathons and what feels like a million training miles later I’m about to embark on the longest journey on foot that I’ve ever made. The countdown begins and the nerves are setting in. My mantra is ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and for me winning is just getting to the finish line and enjoy the journey along the way.

See you on April 22nd.

words by Jada Sezer – Follow her journey on Instagram.

Donate to Jada’s Just Giving page here!