Helena with Britrunner (me) after another steamy one in Florida !
I’ve been told I am an influencer says Helena Redshaw. First impressions reveal a cheeky, unrelentingly dedicated woman who makes a splash wherever she goes but who retains humility and a beguiling shyness when confronted with the success of her ideas and inspiration. Her story is like so many others but in critical ways it is unique. Read on. Discover more !!!!!!!!!
Striding out !
Time in the saddle !
Her journey from spectating year after year with her Mum at the London Marathon to running it, tackling other ‘majors’, completing a half Iron Man and becoming known in the South Florida running and biking community as ‘the running Mermaid’ (badass Mermaid, no less) after she learned to swim is colorful and inspiring.
Helena has made a life of doing what she puts her mind to and more importantly inspiring others to follow suit. When she meets people the ‘influencer’ in her means that they invariably end up registering for a race somewhere, even if they’ve never run before. Although many great athletes are among her friends, she loves to inspire ordinary women to get up, get fit and get involved.
As an athlete she is regularly seen in gymnasia, bike training centers and on local roads running, clipped onto her distinctive black and white Quintaroo bike affectionately called ‘Nola’ or more recently swimming inordinate distances in local aqautic centers at godforsaken early hours of the day.
Helena is a member of many clubs locally including North West Broward Road Runners Club in Parkland/Coral Springs, Florida, Boca Triathetes, Doghouse Cycling and G2 Cycling among others. She also loves to knit, have a nice cup of tea (with milk of course – she’s English dammit !), be ‘brilliant’ and avoid cooking wherever she can. She is a regular woman, a mother and competitor who lives by a simple mantra : do it and don’t quit. If it is there and it can be done, train for it or just do it !
Helena’s journey from avid avoider of anything remotely athletic at high school to training for a full Ironman in 2014 is colorful and characteristically filled with challenges faced, conquered and then renewed. Her motto ‘coz why not?’ is fitting in the extreme. Why not indeed!
As previously noted she did not immediately gravitate to an athletic lifestyle but the seed of her future endeavors had been firmly planted back in her native London. Every year she would watch the London marathon with her mother and wonder at the runners and charity competitors as they sped past or staggered in some cases laden down by elaborate fancy dress costumes. Ultimately the desire to run the race got the better of her.
Helena eventually ran the London Marathon in 2009. She said that she ‘just winged’ the race as she knew nothing about running back then. She readily admits to ‘winging’ races a bit ever since. Despite training in a determined and utterly focussed manner she always seems to have an injury to take along for the race. That said, for her, seeing the finish line in her first marathon was a memory that will ‘live with her forever’, one which has inspired her for everything else she has done since. After finishing London she decided to run New York. After this the realization dawned on her that she could run all the world ‘majors’. New York and Chicago are in the bag and only Boston and Tokyo, the newly minted ‘major’ remain to be tackled. Many would ask : why would anyone do all this ? In her own inimitable words the answer is simple -‘Cos why not?’.
Prior to running the race she had been successfully treated for an illness called Ventricular Tachycardia ( VT) which is a potentially life threatening medical condition that results in the heart beat getting up to 100 beats per minute. In Helena’s case her heart beat irregularly and up to 190 times a minute. This is clearly not a good thing if you aspire to run or for that matter live beyond a certain point. It would certainly curtail any likelihood of ever becoming a running mermaid. Thankfully medical science came to the rescue and Helena was able to start her unique contribution to women’s fitness athletics after successful treatment. As a result She raised $6,000 for the British Heart Foundation as her charity effort at the London marathon.
In Helena’s words, ‘It was after this that the real journey began’. The London marathon was duly completed with a modicum of training, ‘winging it’ all the way, of course ! As is the case for most first time marathoners, the finish line was a sight she will never forget. The emotion of finishing the first marathon is one of those life events that has inspired thousands of writers and more runners still. Helena, as we know, was not content with running one major marathon which is why New York quickly followed thus inspiring the desire to complete the set.
Another ‘first’ ocurred after the London Marathon when she bought her first serious bike. It was a Trek bike affectionately called Tonka ! She joined G2 Cycling and naturally completed her first century ride within two months of starting. The purchase of ‘Tonka’ was inspired by the notion that inflicts itself on all first time riders : why spend a fortune on something that you may not like? Of course she loved cycling and eventually got her first Triathlon Bike from Doghouse Racing after she learned to swim. This was one dubbed ‘Nola’ after New Orleans the venue for her first 70.3 race! She is often to be seen on the roads of Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Parkland and Coral Springs astride her striking black and white speed machine putting more than a few male riders to shame ( the author included). She is a member of Boca Raton Triathlon Club as well as Doghouse and G2 and she has inevitably made hundreds of friends along the way. Her infectious enthusiasm draws people to her and if they have not done so already they will run, ride or swim something shortly after meeting her. Her ability to inspire and enthuse women and men of all levels of athletic ability is clear testament to the energy she brings to our sport.
Since getting involved with the world of triathlon she has completed several sprint tri’s, the HITS series Olympic distance triathlon and the New Orleans Half Ironman. With these considerable achievements behind her the Ironman Texas is next up in 2014. After that , who knows……………..she lives for the next goal and seems to be up for anything.
I became friendly with Helena some two years ago. We share common ancestry in that we both are English. This provides us the benefit of being able to communicate and joke in English English much to the confusion of many of our American friends. It is this Englishness that has inspired many hilarious moments, a few private jokes and the kick starting of my writing aspirations as they presently stand. Helena even inspired me with her wit when we ran early wednesday runs at the start of 2013. The adventures of the Glades runners as we became known provided me with a great deal of material for posts that acquired a small following on my Facebook timeline.
Me with more mermaids !
Helena and her trademark Jump with me failing miserably !
Shortly after she mentioned she was thinking of starting a club. This became The Mermaid club. Consequently a web phenomenon was created. Why ‘Mermaid Club’? Firstly, the epithet ‘Running Mermaid’ was given to Helena by people she trained with when she learned to swim shortly after her 40th birthday. Soon after gaining the confidence to swim 9 lengths of the pool she was participating in her first Sprint Triathlon. Not only did the title of Running Mermaid stick with her, but it inspired the founding of The Mermaid Club in 2013.
Secondly, the name of the club was derived from the club of the same name formed around, it is said, William Shakespeare though there is little evidence that he was a member. Leading Elizabethan literary figures would meet on the first Friday evening of the month at the Mermaid Tavern in London partly to imbibe and partly to share ideas and inspire one another. Inspiration of others is a key attribute of The Mermaid Club. Helena is also a big fan of Shakespeare.
Thus it was that one of her greatest achievements was not been related to training for a race, it was the founding of The Mermaid Club. This online global community for women who aspire to ‘think big, make things happen and inspire others’ is beautifully described in the tag she coined ’Live life, make waves”. The club links women all over the world, many of whom are working mothers, who in the words of Anais Nin, ‘have a fear of shallow living but no fear of depths’. They share their achievements, knowledge, athletic journeys and support for each other via Facebook and a webpage ( livelifemakewaves.com) launched in 2014. Inspiring women to take the first step of a journey that will fulfill them in so many ways is a fundamental principle of the rapidly growing club.
The three passions of running, biking and swimming are embraced by the club although pure fitness activity is included as well. The planking posts on FaceBook have become a weekly staple for women all over the world on the club page.
Much of the clubs art work is original with Helena taking many great pictures. I am convinced her bike pictures will be a great coffee table book within the next five years. More lively ideas make up the online presence of the club including Motivating Mermaids on a Monday, Tuesday tool kit, Thursday Anything Goes, and Friday is focused on rest and relaxation or Mermaid love! The mantra of the club is ‘live life, make waves’ and the women who take part and share their athletic highs and lows are encouraged to live by the words of Anais Nin by ‘having a a great fear of shallow living and no fear of depths’. The analogy is perfect for the Mermaid club and typifies the creative zest that Helena brings to its evolution.
A web page has been launched to add to the club use of FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter. The phrase ‘Show your fins’ has been widely adopted as encouragement for those women starting their athletic journeys. The phrase has also developed a life of its own as many women now ‘show their fins’ as they finish races or train for them. The pictures of them completing races with fins held aloft are plentiful and the enthusiasm of those connecting with the club is clear for all to see. The women who get involved love the club and voraciously acquire the T-shirts, swim caps and running tee’s that Helena advertises and sells bearing the club crest. Much of this is done either as a non profit activity or where possible donations are made to charities such as Swim Vietnam which is run by a friend of Helena’s in Vietnam.
It is clear to me that the club has a real chance of becoming huge over the coming year and beyond. The face book page has well over a thousand ‘likes’ and the ‘goodies’ offered for sale simply race out of the box soon after Helena receives them from the manufacturer. All of the merchandise, online posts, pictures and ensuing correspondence support the notion that there is a clear desire for women to share their stories and to grow from this. Whether a woman is an established athlete or a complete novice, the Mermaid club has a place to discuss and connect just about every aspect of being fit, training, competing or simply being a woman who is living life and making waves.
Helena is unquestionably a difference maker, someone for whom just getting on a bike, jumping in a pool or knocking off an early morning run is not enough. She will continue to innovate and drive her ideas forward while have a lot of laughs along the way. Tea and bikkies (English cookies) are her fuel and an unrelenting enthusiasm for every challenge she sets herself allied to an ability to get thousands of others to follow suit are her hallmarks.
This recent USA Triathlon Florida woman of the month is an irreverent but dedicated athlete who relishes the next big challenge as something that has to be done…………Riding a hundred miles? Just do it, as she says ‘Cos why not?’ Why not indeed !
Ready for a nice cup of tea now !