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Limping but proud, let's hear it for the girls

On your marks. Get set. Go! Well, it seemed like such a good idea at the time. I had been lulled into that summer term hiatus that is study leave and thought, rashly, that I would have loads of time to file, update my resources and train for the Race for Life 5km run.

I persuade colleagues to get a team together and suddenly teachers and accounts staff, receptionists and exam officers, lab technicians and governors are all offering to run for charity.

We only recently went fully co-educational so it seems like a good time to do something collective with the girls. Under the encouragement of Miss Drought they too sign up in droves, from third form to upper sixth. Before we know it there are more than 100 in the team.

Our male colleagues seem put out by the single sex element. They mutter that 5km is no distance at all then furtively ask if they can join wearing a dress. Worrying.

Male pupils hum Keep on Running at me in the corridor and ask bemusedly: "Can lady teachers run then, Mrs G?" I point out that if Angelina Jolie can take the lead originally written for Tom Cruise in the film Salt - in which she not only runs but kicks, shoots and rides a motorbike with one hand - then we can certainly run 5km.

Miss Drought gets the girls training. They gambol around outdoors in a giggling mass, all gazelle legs and gracefulness, making 5km look easy.

Mrs S and I decide we are not going to be beaten by 12-year-olds and begin our own training routine. This does not go as planned. We locate the school gym only to find it full of rugby boys and ICT support staff pumping iron in their lunch break. The running machines face a wall of mirrors. Not only can the whole school see but so can I. Charlotte offers fake tan, yet that is not enough to make me wear shorts in school, not even for charity.

Miss N pops a disc in her back and the pain is palpable in her eyes. Mrs S gets chaffing, on her upper arm, and dashes off in search of soothing nappy rash cream. I fall flat on my face, literally, in the park. The ignominy of hearing the line, "Mrs G you've got mud in your belly button," is something no amount of teacher training can prepare you for.

Back at school I sport comedic strapping from finger-tip to elbow. Every few hours Nurse rushes in to slap an ice pack on my wrist. It makes an interesting focal point in the classroom as I try not to drip on to the interactive board.

It is at this stage that I begin to ask whose daft idea this was, only to be reminded that it was mine.

Fundraising begins in earnest. Colleagues thrust cash and pupils proffer pocket money. Homemade cakes are sold at break time.

Miss Drought holds a meeting for the girls, who sit nonplussed until they see the online shop. Everything is pink. Or pink with sequins and glitter. I subdue my inner feminist as they squeal with excitement and plead to be allowed to wear fairy wings and tutus with their sports kit. We give in to pressure, even saying yes to head boppers and hula flower garlands. In pink. I bet Angelina doesn't wear those.

Support. Solidarity. Sisterhood. We may be in pink. We may be sweating and injured. But watch out Race for Life - here come our girls.

Julie Greenhough, English teacher at an independent school in London.

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