Preston army veteran and former postwoman takes on the Great Manchester Run in a wheelchair
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68-year-old Pip Flegel, who lives in Garstang, has lost two stone for the fundraising event so that her Veteran friend can push her across the finish line.
Pip says, “When I joined the army I was only 17, I came from a broken home and it gave me a focus, taught me how to look after myself and discipline. Being part of the army was the best time of my life, it made me the person that I am today.
“I served across the country and was even posted in Northern Ireland. At the time women weren’t trusted with weapons so we were patrolling with only a white pickaxe handle.
“It was a different time for women back then, there were strict rules about marriage, pregnancy and sexuality. Breaking any of these rules would mean that your job was taken away from you, they’d put you down as ‘Services No Longer Required’”
Pip left the Women’s Royal Army Corps after five years and moved to Manchester in 1976 where she became a postwoman for 26 years. She retired due to ill health from Myasthenia Gravis, an autoimmune disease that affects the voluntary muscles of the body.
Although she can still walk with the aid of sticks Pip is using a wheelchair to tackle the distance of the 10k race. She will be pushed by her friend and fellow Veteran Jañn Brant-Cassidy, also aged 68.
Pip says, “I’ve never done anything like this before but I’ve been going to Weight Watchers and changing my diet specifically to lose weight so that I’ll be lighter for Jañn to push. So far I’ve lost two stone!
“Me and Jañn have been training together, she’s not local so she will come and stay and we will go out and see what we can do. We’ve not managed 10k yet but I’m confident we will be able to do it.”
Pip and the other Veterans are hoping to raise money and awareness for the Women’s Royal Army Corps Association which helps women of all ages and backgrounds who have served in the forces.
The WRAC Association was formed in 1949 and aims to help veterans stay in contact with those they have served with. It offers support to the veterans through counselling, welfare, and support.
Across the country, it has 70 branches, which offer social gatherings, outings and regular local group meetings.
Pip adds, “I found out about the WRAC Association on Facebook five years ago and I was so happy that I did. They help any woman who’s been in the forces - even if they’ve only served a day.
“I managed to get connections back to other women who I’ve served with. There are groups across the country and we will all go on organised trips together. Locally our group meets up monthly in Trafford and it’s great to feel like you have that support.
“There’s been a lot of positive changes for women since I was part of the forces so it’s really great to see that there’s more inclusion and equality going forwards because during my time a lot of women couldn’t be themselves.
“Now there are even women serving on the front line, women no longer have to hide their sexuality and they can have maternity leave if they want to.
“I’m really proud to be racing and taking part for the WRAC Association and I hope that any woman who’s been in the forces knows that there’s this group that can support them - there’s nothing else specifically for women out there, it’s the only one of its kind.”
There’s still time to sign up to this year’s Great Manchester Run. It's a run for everyone, from locals to celebrated athletes, whether it’s your first 10k or your 50th half marathon. An inclusive celebration of Mancunian running, with music blazing, crowds buzzing, legs pumping and fists bumping.
To sponsor Pip visit The WRAC Association donation page.
The city comes alive on the Great Manchester Run weekend. For more information or to enter today visit greatrun.org/manchester.