Interview with the Great Northern Runner, Colin Plews before his big race this weekend.
Fundraiser Colin Plews, who’s run thousands of miles in a big pink dress, raising thousands of pounds for breast cancer charities, will be taking part in his fourth Great North Run (the world’s largest half marathon) in Newcastle on Sunday, in support of Breast Cancer Now.
I wanted to catch-up with Colin to find out what possesses a 49-year old ex-rugby player to run around the countryside – all 6 ft 6 inches of him – in a big pink dress and curly wig.
Q: So, what’s with the dress; a great way to grab people’s attention or just an excuse to dress up in women’s clothes? The dress isn’t a way of life. It started in 2014 when a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time I worked as a chef in a residential home and every year we put on a Christmas show for the residents. That particular year the theme was ‘Star in your Eyes’ and we all picked names out of a hat – I picked Diana Ross (lol). And, when the fundraising pack came through for the Wear it Pink campaign, the dress I’d worn for the show was the only pink thing I had.
Q: What inspired your first run and what motivates you to keep going? Watching my friend going through breast cancer was horrendous, and as I used to be a runner when I was younger, it felt like something I could do. I get messages from breast cancer survivors every week saying thank you – it’s all the motivation I need.
Q: What’s the training like for you? It’s gruelling to be honest. I train in heavy clothes and hats to simulate the heat. And, I’m not a natural runner anymore.
Q: What’s the big pink dress like to run in; if it’s hot, if it rains? Running in the dress is far from easy, the heat is unbearable at times. The dresses normally weigh between 2-3 stone, so it gets very hot. I’ve been lucky and never had to run in the rain.
Q: Who designs and makes the dresses? Do you have a whole wardrobe full of them? I design and make each big pink dress myself; there’s been 37 so far. They all end up in the loft. This year’s dress is called the Big Memories Dress in honour of Marilyn Jones, a supporter of mine who died about a year and a half ago, and other loved ones that have been lost by supporters over the years. The dress has over a hundred roses on it so it’s even heavier than usual. But each flower is a unique tribute to the person who has been lost – many with personal messages – so it’s an extra-special dress. It’s going to be emotional.
Q: Dedicating your time and energy to such a worthwhile cause is an incredible thing to do but it must be hard at times? Hearing stories from amazing survivors – that’s great – it makes you feel like you’re really making a difference. The lowest point for me was the day we hit our target of £10,000; I got a call to say a longtime supporter of mine had passed away. Truly broke my heart.
Q: The Great North Run is only a few days away – how’s the preparation going? The preparation hasn’t gone well. I tore my groin muscle and have a kidney stone, too. So it will be a slow run on the day (lol).
Q: What’s next for the man in the big pink dress? Well lots (lol). After the Great North Run, I’ve been asked to be part of a friend’s wedding, whose mother sadly passed away from breast cancer. They want to raise money for charity and I’ve been asked to attend as a bridesmaid (lol). Then in November, we have the Big Pink Charity Ball in Sunderland. Next year, I’m hoping to do my biggest challenge ever, running approximately 1000 miles across England to every premier football ground, to try and raise half a million pounds for Breast Cancer Now.