I’m really proud of this friend of mine. She’s celebrating her 50th birthday this year by chucking off her clothes – for charity. Some people find nudity a breeze, others don’t and for my mate Averil Larke, this is an emotional journey which is a real challenge and a real tribute to both her, and the charities she supports. She’s doing all five of this year’s ‘Dip in The Nips’ for Irish Cancer Charities. Inspired by her bravery, I decided I’d also take the plunge, in Cork. But blow me, being starkers must have gone to my head, ‘cos I just did it again in Sligo!
When I say my friend is brave, I really mean it. Because dropping your clothes to the ground and making your way into the ocean in front of lots of other people can be a daunting experience. I swim all-year-round at Malahide in Dublin, so it’s not the thought of the cold that made me shiver in my flip-flops at my first ‘Dip’ in Cork. It was the thought of bearing my bits. I used to be 23 stone and I’m still overweight for my height, so I don’t have the best body image. The thought of putting it on display made me quite uncomfortable, and not for the first time. I posed for a nude art exhibition for Concern in 2012 and although I was pleased to do it and had no regrets, it was a really big challenge for me.
Surprisingly; I found the Cork Dip In The Nip absolutely empowering. We were very much protected from prying eyes as we ran to the sea, we got a countdown to the big ‘reveal’ and then scarpered into the surf as fast as long and short legs could go. There was an official photographer on the beach, the lads were up one end and the girls and couples in other separate spots, so it felt like a relatively safe environment. Once ‘under-cover’ in the water we splashed and laughed and swam through the gorgeous, fresh, salty, sun-kissed waves and felt almost high with the happiness in the air. Then I noticed the bodies. I wasn’t being voyeuristic in any way, but as we all left the water, we all seemed much more relaxed as we made our way back to our clothes. The startling revelation for me was that every single body on the beach was beautiful. I don’t say that lightly, and I don’t just mean that the emotion of the moment had got to me. I mean genuinely, that every body looked wonderful. Sun kissed and salt splashed – big and little, gravity pulled at everyone’s bits and their bodies swung around as they moved in a ballet of form, totally natural and totally ‘right’. Even the slenderest of ladies showed the effects of gravity; big or little, our bodies all ‘moved’. I suddenly realised, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to match my appearance to the flat, one-dimensional images, that we gaze at on TV and in print. But our bodies are so much more than that, we move, and sway and our muscles ripple and our bone structure shows and guides our form. We are so much more beautiful that what we can see on screen. You know when you try to photograph a beautiful sunset and you just can’t capture it – that’s the way these bodies seemed. It is a realisation that will hopefully last me a lifetime. Ladies we are beautiful.
Sligo saw both Averil and me back at full circle and taking our clothes off for charity again. It’s so important to raise money for cancer charities. We have all felt Cancer’s chilling touch in some way; our Mothers, Fathers, Aunts, Husbands, Daughters, Best friends; Cancer doesn’t discriminate. But I also believe that the men, women and couples taking part in the ‘Dip’ are ringing a bell for all those survivors who have fought the brave fight and come out shining. Hair loss, operation scars, all beautiful trophies to having tackled the odds and won. Shining and strong and fair play to every one. This crusade to the water’s edge is a celebration of life; a gift of thanks and pride for the legs that carry us, and lungs that breathe and eyes that see.
If you want to join in this wave of love and support – register for the next ‘Dip in the Nip’ – there’s just one left this year, in September. Come and Skinny-Dip for loved ones, or for those you’ve lost, or for you. Whatever your reason, join thousands of others who have peeled off for the cause. Or help me fundraise. You can make a donation of any amount on the PayPal button below.
*Frances Muldoon Photography
Earlier this year a friend remarked that she was celebrating her 50th birthday by stepping up to the plate, and participating in all five of this year’s ‘Dip in The Nips’ for Irish Cancer Charities. Inspired by her bravery, I decided I’d also take the plunge, but because I had a very busy year of engagements that hadn’t been fully finalised, I registered for all of the swims in the hope that I would be free for at least one. That decision’s come home to roost this weekend and I’ve been told my ‘Dip in the Nip’ will be in Cork.
When I say my friend is brave, I really mean it. Because dropping your clothes to the ground and making your way into the ocean in front of lots of other people is a daunting experience – for me at least. I swim all-year-round at Malahide in Dublin, so it’s not the cold or the water that’s making me shiver in my flip-flops. It’s the thought of bearing my bits. I used to be 23 stone and I’m still overweight for my height, so I don’t have the best body image. The thought of putting it on display, gives me the creeps.
This is not the first time I’ve dropped my knickers for charity (in the best possible way). When I was fundraising for Concern in 2012, I agreed to pose for a nude art exhibition to raise money for the cause. It was all tastefully done and the eventual artwork that resulted from the session was pretty stunning. That’s a compliment to the artists, not to my lumps and bumps. You see I’m still apologising for my curves, even though I’ve come a long way when it comes to embracing them. The quirky thing, is that the art exhibition – my first dip into the world of the nude – was also in Cork – which I think is a bit of a coincidence. Or maybe I’m just a bit more free-spirited when I move outside The Pale!
The picture above is one of several completed for the ‘Nude’ exhibit at Gallery Frida, by artists: Andrea Cashell, Lora Murphy and Eileen Mc’Goldrick.
So I’m back at full circle and taking my clothes off for charity again. Why am I doing it? Obviously it’s good to raise money for cancer charities; we have all felt Cancer’s chilling touch in some way. Mothers, Fathers, Aunts, Husbands, Daughters, Best friends; Cancer doesn’t discriminate
But like the other women, men and couples taking part, I also believe that I’m ringing a bell for all those survivors who have fought the brave fight and come out shining. Hair loss, operation scars, all beautiful trophies to having tackled the odds and won. Shining and strong and fair play to every one. That’s what I’ll be thinking of in the early hours of Sunday morning, when I bare my boobs and head to the water’s edge, thankful and proud to have legs that carry me, and lungs to breathe and eyes to see.
If you want to join in this wave of love and support – register for the next ‘Dip in the Nip’. Come and Skinny-Dip for loved ones, or for those you’ve lost, or for you. Whatever your reason, join thousands of others who have peeled off for the cause. Or help me fundraise this weekend. You can make a donation of any amount on the PayPal button below.
Back to my running club, Le Chéile AC tonight, for the first time in months. Parking the car in the dark of the night was a sharp change from the lovely warm evenings when I was here last. Heading down to the new running track to say hello to old friends and new, I remembered coming here last Feb – again braving the dark cold night and spits of rain to get started on the club’s Couch-to-5k programme.
It felt a bit like deja-vu walking across the carpark tonight; out of the night and into the lights, and I briefly gave myself a mental kick for not keeping it up after reaching my 5k. But then I realised I was smiling, I realised I wasn’t grumbling away to myself, as I had been back in February when I made this walk. So something has clearly changed. I may have lost my running fitness a bit, but at least now I know that I’ve done this before and I feel more confident about doing it again.
Meeting running buddy Sharon Ashmore, and our coach – the talented Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan – on the track, it’s grins all around as the warm-ups begin.
I’m 5 mins jumping up and down and I realise that the ‘girls are loose’. Gentlemen, just tune out now, while girls, appreciate that good harnessing is vital for this kind of lark, especially when there are ample assets to contain! Enough of that. John announces that we are going to have a bash at sprint-relays; there were a couple of groans and a couple of grins, while I remained neutral, unsure of what that entailed.
We split into teams and took up positions on the track, got our briefings and the whistle blew. I was the 2nd runner in my group. Sharon was my ‘number one’ and she was sprinting the first 100 metres to me, while I got ready to grab the baton and dash for the 2nd 100.
As I saw Sharon’s 100 metres disappearing, the cold of the night disappeared, and despite myself, I felt a burst of adrenaline. I’d been telling myself I was going to slow down the team and be a disappointment, but then I suddenly realised, I hadn’t tried this sprinting stuff before and for all I knew, I could be nursing a secret talent; there could be a burst of speed under the hood after all.
Sharon approaches, I start to run, we join hands over the baton, I’ve got it and I’m away. Speed’s up, chest up, breathing deep and pushing towards the track. I’m 50 metres gone and feeling good, when something odd happens. I feel my running pants loosen around my hips, and as they continue to slip, my petrified mind freezes; ‘they can’t go any further’ I think to myself, they’re lycra! There’s only 40 metres to go…. just keep running. But as my hips roll, my pants slip further, and then to my horror, my belly pops out over the waistband – the point of no return. I look ahead, 30 metres. I grab my belly, still firmly hanging onto my baton, I grab onto my pants, and I keep running. Catherine’s number 3, and blinded by the spotlights, clearly can’t see my predicament. ‘C’mon – run Teena, run’ she shouts. I’m running and shouting back and laughing and just about holding it altogether as I fall towards her and she grabs the baton and runs off into the night. Collapsing in a giggling heap as I sort myself out. Now that’s a belly laugh…
Standing stretching and checking my harness, modesty restored, I try and figure out what went wrong. I’ve run in these pants before, although not this sprinting business. Before long the wave is returned back around the track and Sharon is running back down towards me, baton outstretched. I start to run, we switch possession of the baton, and I’m off again. Confident this time – having discovered what the string in my waistband is for!
Running down the track I concentrate on being fast, until the wave of other runners sweep past me and I’m back running into Catherine’s screams of ‘C’mon, run Teena, Run’. Ah well, maybe not the Olympics then.
A friend of mine once told me I have the head of a racehorse and the body of a mule, because I always want to be fast, although I’m not really constructed that way. But I think I’d prefer to think of myself as a Shetland pony, because in fairness, it’s not that I have a mule-like stubbornness against running, it’s just that I don’t do it very well, although that John O’Regan fella is determined that I develop a decent little trot.
The main thing about tonight is that I’m back. Back at Le Chéile and back running, and even if I can’t run fast, I can always run faster! So I’ll be turning up for my Parkrun 5k on Saturday morning, and I’ll be turning up for the Run in the Dark on November 13th, and I’ll be back for my next Le Cheile training session with John and Sharon and the gang. But next time, this particular Shetland Pony will have her harness and tackle checked and ready to go, and her girth tightened beforehand…