Let’s be honest, how many times have you heard the phrase “women are bitches”? Or that you can’t have a group of women together, that they’ll scratch each others eyes out, and that they in fact, need moderating by men?
What would happen if women had a “safe space” online? A group only of women, moderated by women, talking about everything from sport to personal issues, to what they’re eating for their dinner? It’d be a bloodbath right? Women are bitches who can’t be trusted to work together nicely, so it goes without saying that they’d be tearing each other apart, right?
Imagine a female only group, something so new and so rare, full of fierce female friendships, a matriarchal utopia where you know you can disagree with others, but it’s done in an adult understanding way, and where you can say whatever you need to say without fear of needless retribution. Sounds like heaven right?
On this International Women's Day 2018 I want to share with you and celebrate a group of women which empowers, lifts, and supports each other. That sounds a bit like a bra, but we need those too so I'm not complaining!
Let me introduce you to the UK Mudd Queens
A place where you can discuss your latest training regime, your latest run, whether it was 1km or 100km, where ladies go for breastfeeding advice, CV advice, marriage advice. Unlike many online “forums”, this place isn’t faceless. We know each other, or if you don’t know someone, you have friends in common. There is personal responsibility, and the ladies who set up this community have a strict set of guidelines if you want to be part of it.
There are only so many ways I can describe it, so I asked the Mudd Queens themselves to come forward with their stories.
I think many people know the story of my first OCR at Nuclear Fallout in 2014 and my adventures with the Death Slide, but not many of them know my journey to get there.
I'm not, and never have been, someone who talks about their struggles/challenges in life; I’m of the generation that weren't encouraged to talk about feelings, they had to be buried and dealt with and saying you were proud of something was seen as showing off. But here goes!
Throughout my life I have always been there for other people, being a good listening ear, a solid shoulder to cry on, someone who could see the options open for people that they couldn't see for themselves. As a headteacher I was successful in getting my Infant school to the top 7% in the country. The standing joke if anyone wanted me was "She's probably in the sand pit or singing somewhere!"
I was so proud of my staff, my children and my school. It all went wrong when I was asked to take on another failing school at the same time. Working 12/14 hour days took its toll on my health and after 2heart attacks, a hiatus hernia and an ovarian tumour the size of a watermelon I was asked to take early medical retirement. A massive op where they took everything away left me with huge problems (I now have to use an intermittent catheter because I can't pee naturally and have nerve damage to my lower spine).
Three weeks after that my OH was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, and then a month after that my Mum with vascular dementia. So the depression hit me like a brick wall and I put up another brick wall in front of that to stop anyone getting in. I didn't leave the house for months, friends stopped calling and I didn't care for myself at all.
It got to the point where I could barely walk and was facing a life in a wheelchair when a flyer came through the door for a small local gym studio.
That's where my new life began! I lost 7 stone in the first year and started getting my head straight with their help and that of a wonderful counsellor who has become a lifelong friend. I started feeling I had a future.
That first Nuclear I went with a team from the club but I was soon left behind. They didn't want to but I insisted, I wasn't going to hold them up. Those first 5k gave me a lot of thinking time.
And then came the Death Slide. It wasn't just the fear of the slide that was holding me back, it was the fear of everything that had gone before and the feeling that I HAD to do this to prove to myself that I was still worth something.
That’s when I had my first experience of Mudd Queen magic with Fay Kelly hugging me, stuffing jelly babies in my mouth and telling me it would all be ok. And she was right, she literally saved my life, although she didn’t know it at the time.
I haven't looked back. Even with 9 more major ops since then and numerous minor ones, I have kept on training, I have kept positive (most of the time) and I keep looking forward.
Teaming up in obstacle racing. Loving what being in a team can mean.
Let's be respectful, positive and encouraging to all members.
Let's represent Mudd Queens in the U.K.
Those are the words that greet you when you first become a Mudd Queen. When I first joined there were fewer than 50 members and today there are almost 3,000 all of whom have been supreme examples of putting all these words into practice.
Many of us at races across the country or working out at the gym or at home, have had stories of sadness, grief, loneliness, boredom, frustration, depression, anxiety and downright fear. Many of us had tales of fun and happiness, of success and achievement, of personal growth and strength.
We have all had one place where we have felt safe enough to share these stories. Safe in the knowledge that we will be supported, we will be encouraged, congratulated and applauded. A place where we can go for help on any topic whether it be the next best trainer or the brightest leggings to get, or what bra to wear, how to deal with periods, how to cope with everyday life and the stresses and strains that entails.
We hear the message that we can all be strong women, and that we can help each other to become strong; that we can help each other get over any obstacle whether it be the physical ones in the field or the emotional ones we all get many times in our lives.
This group has been brilliant; so many wonderful personal achievements over adversity by so many inspiring women. Many times over the last three years I have witnessed totally selfless acts of kindness such as donating prizes to raffles, giving money to provide tickets to events or Christmas food packs for those less well off, giving kit to those who need it, raising funds for women’s charities and in my own case going outside of the group to the wider OCR community to raise funds for my husband’s funeral, something I could never have asked for myself.
Many MQ’s have made firm friendships that will last a lifetime. I know I certainly have! Many meet in local groups for training sessions, coffee and cake, or a night on the town. Many receive text messages or PMs from others at just the right moment when it’s needed. No-one need feel alone when they see someone in an MQ shirt at a race, there’s always a friendly face, a helping hand and an encouraging word.
But none of this, none of the ethos of the Mudd Queens, the Mudd Queen code would exist in its current form if it weren’t for three awesome ladies: Fay Kelly, JoJo Brown and Lucy Tarrant, the original founders of the group. Great leaders don’t tell you what to do, they show you how it is done and MQHQ do just that; they lead by example, the best example we could have. MQHQ have such dedication to the Mudd Queen group and put in so much hard work behind the scenes that we don’t know about but know that it must happen, such as vetting new members, preventing jealous men from infiltrating our circle and trying to fulfil our never ending list of requests for Mudd Queen merchandise.
I'm not writing this for sympathy; it's more to let those who have problems know that there is hope, that there is help out there if you ask for it, that there is no shame in asking for help and that all of us are special, strong people in our own way.
Fay holds my hand when I need it most.
I’m a single mum of 2 beautiful children. Christmas time is always so so special for me and my kids love our special day, even if we don’t get to celebrate on Christmas day. The joys of being divorced and having a control freak as an ex, but that’s a story for another day!
I live miles away from my family. I often get money sent instead of gifts, same for the kids but I go buy something for them and wrap it up so they have something under the tree.
I decided to join MQSS (Mudd queen Secret Santa) last year as I like to buy for others. It may be sad, but it’s so lovely to have something under the tree for me to open, and to know that someone out there has thought about me. I see all the effort that goes into people choosing these gifts, and when you feel a bit alone or left out at Christmas, it’s great to know that you’re not, not really. It’s a reassurance that these women have always got your back.
So basically I genuinely don't think I would be here if it wasn't for the ocr community, and in particular the Mudd Queens. While the sport in itself gave me a drive to get better, knowing that I had such a supportive network of women around me, solely focussed on raising each other up helped me to see how amazing life and friendships can be.
I really didn't think I'd make it to 22. I'm about to turn 24 and I'm mentally stronger than ever because I found people who didn't blink when I showed them my crazy and who celebrated every single achievement I've had. The Mudd Queens have pushed and pulled me in every direction to get me to the standard I am in the sport I love and to the person that I am today: happy and strong.
2 years ago, I was due to have an operation, but it didn't happen. I was so lonely and felt so unwanted. I found I had always made enemies easily, and seen as hostile before finding the Mudd Queens. Since joining they have saved me from attempted suicide, feeling low, and have helped me find out that there are good people in the world after years of abuse and discrimination.
Even though I find it very hard to engage in any sort of adult conversation, to understand and be empathetic, they have all stayed with me and showed me that they love me for who I am. Maybe I will be a Unicorn forever now.
Mudd Queens have shown support since the first day of joining, when I faced abuse from another group, the Mudd Queens stepped up and held my hand. I suffer with Schizotypal personality disorder (STPD) whereby I feel that people are against me if they say something that I feel is hostile or angry from their point of view. It may not be so, but to me it feels I just hurt someone and it can become so intense that I feel suicidal. This has been the main reason for most of my depression and paranoia. However, with the help of Mudd Queens I am learning that people aren’t being mean or hostile to me, and that I could be misunderstanding the situation. I still get very upset from little comments or words said to me, and I can find it difficult to understand what people mean. But now I know I can ask the queens who I am close to, to explain it differently to me.
In the 2 years of being a Mudd Queen I have been to the summit of Snowdon, bounce below, and my first hen party all with them. It’s not always just about OCR.
They have held my hand and made me do things that I wouldn’t have thought possible. Without them I may not be here today. Suicide plagues my mind daily, it’s only the Mudd Queens wonder posts and support that is keeping me here; they make me smile every day.
I hate to ask anyone to help me, but I know that if I need help, the Mudd Queens will be there for me. And I will be there for them.