From ‘Heffa’ to Half-Marathon Hopeful – Shah’s Story

An Aston mum has revealed how she’s gone from ‘heffa’ to half-marathon hopeful in just 18 months – losing SIX stone in the process.

Shah Begum, aged 37, used to think events like the Great Birmingham Run on Sunday, October 16, which she has just signed up for, were only for super-fit folk. Not being ‘scraped off the road’ was all the paralegal at city centre legal firm Gowling WLG thought she could hope for when she initially agreed to run the Great Birmingham 10k on Sunday May 1.

But Shah’s transformation was complete when a photo of her beaming smile at the Broad Street finish line featured in a Great Run Company congratulatory email sent to the 6,000- plus runners who negotiated the 6.2-mile route.

“You see some women who have had children and kept the weight on, or others who have let themselves go,” said Shah.

“Not me. I’d always been a heffa – I was born a heffa!

“If you’d told me 18 months ago I would not only survive a 10k, I’d actually enjoy it and still have enough breath to smile and chat with other runners at the finish line, I’d have thought you were mad.

“For example, I’ve always moaned about how far away my uncle lives. He’s within spitting distance of Edgbaston Cricket Ground and I’ve always driven there. But on the 10k, I ran there and back and then some!

“I proved to myself I could do it and having my photo on the email was amazing. It’s spurred me on to do something else I thought I’d never do – try and run a half marathon.”

When Shah hit email fame
When Shah hit email fame

Shah, a Birmingham-born Muslim of Bangladeshi parentage, started exercising and modifying her diet in preparation for her nephew’s wedding.

“My only exercise used to be going up and down the stairs twice a day,” admitted Shah, who is fundraising for Cancer Research.

“The only thing I’d ever ‘run’ was a hot bath!”

“But I started getting active the day after my youngest nephew got engaged. There are no photos of me from his siblings’ weddings because I wasn’t happy with how I looked.

“This time I wanted to feature in them and wear something stunning. So I signed up for a bootcamp at my local fitness studio, Mix It Up Ladies Fitness, and haven’t looked back.

“Generally, women in my community don’t take part in running events. It’s not seen as the done thing and most of the runners you see on TV are not people I could identify with or relate to.

Shah before taking up running
Before Shah decided to join Saheli’s free running sessions

“But I noticed a photo featuring the Saheli group on the Great Run website. Some were running in head scarves and looked like they were having a whale of a time.

“I thought you had to be really fit to run for that length of time. But I kept hearing ordinary people saying they’ve run this and that and thought ‘if they can do it, why can’t I?’

“Running has helped bring my weight down and is a fantastic way to enjoy being outdoors and meet new people. It’ll also be great to look back at my medals with my son Hassan and say ‘I ran that’.”

Shah, who runs twice a week with the Colmore Business District Running Club during her lunch hour, already has one eye on an even bigger challenge.

“I’ve actually entered the ballot for the London Marathon,” added Shah.

“Don’t get me wrong, I may crawl over the Great Birmingham Run finish line and be in that much pain I say ‘never again’, but I hope I’ll want to keep going.

“What I loved about the Great Birmingham 10k was the atmosphere. At every turn there were people cheering you, shouting your name and kids wanting to high five you.

“I ran that for MacMillan Cancer Support. I loved high-fiving complete strangers who were wearing the same green t-shirt as me!

“One of my secret fears was ‘what if I get injured or have some sort of crisis – how will I get help?’

“But the event was so well organised. There were stewards and first aiders everywhere. I really did feel safe and reassured.”

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