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Look up and be proud: Dawn Nisbet Interview

Look up and be proud: Dawn Nisbet Interview

Clock28th December 2017

For Dawn Nisbet, 2017 was an awesome year. She shares her story and hopes to inspire others to #getinspired through 2018.


dawn nisbet Dawn, what would you say to anyone who tells themselves “I’m not a runner”? 

I think if you run, you are automatically a runner, but often we are too worried about what others think.  For example I will say “I’m a runner” but then will quickly follow up with “but I’m really slow”.  I am trying to reprogramme my thinking to be proud of what I am achieving and acknowledge it better.  “I run. I am a runner and I have great fun doing it”.


Where do these self-limiting beliefs come from?

Years and years of negative thoughts.  They creep into your thinking and vocabulary with stealth and gradually build up until they become your natural way of thinking and talking.

You hear kids saying “I’m an awesome runner” or “I can run really fast” or even “When I grow up I want to be Superman”.  Somewhere along the way we lose that belief in ourselves to be replaced with self-deprecating thoughts.  Humility is encouraged in adulthood and we are not great at saying “I’m awesome at that”.

That is so true Dawn. We all need to find our inner Superman!


Could you describe your own backstory?

I started running not for me but when my step-mum of 32 years was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I wanted to run the Race for Life for her to raise money and show my support for her in what would be a hard treatment journey.  I was 7 stone overweight and hadn’t really done exercise for 18 years, it had just got too difficult and was a vicious cycle resulting in low self-confidence and low mood for me.  But I set about training for the run, mostly in the dark.  It was really tough to begin with and I cried a lot but I never thought about giving up (which was a first for me).  Cut a long and sweaty journey down, I did the run but I was worried that if I had nothing else to aim for after, I would give up running as I always gave up things.  So I found parkrun and did my first 5k there.  I realised I had started to actually love running (weird I know).  So to date I have done 43 parkruns, 3 x 10km runs, run in my spare time, go to the gym, go horse-riding and am hoping to do my first half marathon next year.

dawn nisbet race for life dawn nisbet horse riding


Awesome! What’s the best non-running benefit of running? 

Friendships definitely – the people I have met along my journey have been so amazing and I have forged friendships for life.  And the benefits on my mental health have been phenomenal.  I always felt my life was on hold until I was “thin” almost as if then when I achieved what my head depicted as “thin” I would be finally happy and the clouds would part and all would be well with the world.  I now no longer hate what I see in the mirror as I look at myself and realise how strong I am and what I have achieved and how awesome that actually is.  I know I have the skills and tools to keep myself physically and mentally well and if I have a dip in mood a run even in the rain reminds me of how strong I am.

dawn nisbet parkrun dawn nisbet parkrun finish

How would you describe Parkrun?

Family.  Epic.  Life changing. And so so welcoming.


You came to people’s attention with your iconic parkrun finish photo. Could you describe your feelings at the very moment you crossed the finish line of your 1st parkrun? 

That picture was from my 6th parkrun, I think the finish line picture of my 1st was a crying blubbering mess, less joy more emotionally and physically exhausted.


What stories have people shared with you because of that photo?  

Mostly that they see themselves in me.  They feel running isn’t for them or they are too slow or there is the expectation they will need to run the whole thing or they will finish last.  All those things are the thoughts I have had so love to hear those challenges and gently talk to people to break down those misconceptions and hopefully inspire some excitement to consider giving it a go.  The other more surprising stories are from the really fast runners that a lot of them actually admire the slower runners for getting out there and giving it a go.


Have you experienced negativity towards you through running? 

Not really.  I get the occasional disbelieving person when I say I run when they look me up and down and you can see them judging from my size that it is doubtful I am a runner.  I have been known to wear a race t-shirt as evidence, but usually to remind me on a bad day that I have actually run 10k before so to pull  up my big girl pants and just get on with it and stop being miserable.  Initially when I was on BBC Radio and they tweeted a picture of me running one guy laughed calling me ‘fatty’ and asking if I was running to Weight Watchers.  I’m not even going to bother answering that kind of comment, but thankfully there have been a handful like that – and usually the responses from other followers are enough to put them in their place.

I’ve had a bit a negativity from my teenager that I am not at home as much but that has meant she has had to learn to do a few more things for herself, which is no bad thing in the long run.


Any advice for others that may suffer from negativity? 

Be proud and believe in yourself.  When you are kind to yourself and acknowledge your achievements, it’s much easier to be positive and ignore comments which are totally ridiculous and probably more about the person saying them than they are about you.  And are you really going to let someone else’s small-minded opinion stop you going out there and enjoying yourself?  You deserve to be happy so go out and find it and keep doing it.


Fantastic! So how can people get more active? 

I have realised why I never really stuck to activities before, it’s because I didn’t enjoy them.  We only have a fixed amount of hours in a day and very few of them (if any) are ‘spare’ so why spend your time doing things you don’t enjoy?  Running may not be your ‘happy’, but go out there and find what it is.  Because if you are having fun it doesn’t feel like a chore or a slog, and meeting other people who share that same love, you’re going to make friends whilst having fun.  Local clubs, sports centres, work bulletin boards all have details of different sports and activities.  You might have to try a few to find the right one.  Sport England and This Girl Can websites (you don’t need to be a girl to read it) have great details of all types of sports too.



Any plans for a #2018dawnsyear?

Hopefully to do a half marathon without the need for CPR or a defibrillator.  The feeling of crossing the line after my first 10k was epic, so I am excited to take on this extra challenge and give it a go.


Finally, any tips? 

Look up when you are running or doing your sport.  I was always so embarrassed running in public that I used to look at my feet.  Another runner coming the other way flagged me down and told me to ‘look up’.  She said she had been trying to smile at me to encourage me and I missed it because I wasn’t looking up.  She said to be proud. 
So that would be my tip – Look up and be proud.

dawn nisbet profile pic dawn nisbet


Dawn thanks so much for sharing your running experiences and dreams for 2018. It’s such an uplifting story. Hope next year is amazing for you and that you continue to go on inspiring so many of us to get more active 🙂


Yours in sport 🙂


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