Author Marion Dunn talks to Gayle Ritchie about why she took up boxing at the age of 50…
As she approached the big 5-0, Marion Dunn became increasingly aware of her lack of fitness. She began hunting for cheap gyms and found an advert for one where exercise sessions were run for all ages.
“I turned up expecting a fancy weights room, with posh coffee and deep carpets. Instead I found a traditional old-school boxing gym, where I was made to feel very welcome,” says Marion, now 56. “I was prepared to work hard in the gym and found unexpectedly that I loved boxing.”
She quickly became addicted.
“Despite the macho image, I’ve found it inclusive, stress-busting, fun and sociable,” she says.
Marion, who works in environmental science at Lancaster University, became so hooked that she felt compelled to write about her experiences, initially keeping a diary to memorise some of the complex boxing moves she’d been taught.
Then she began adding descriptions of daily “micro-dramas” which unfolded in the gym.
“Eventually descriptions of my relations and ancestors crept in – they may have had a hand in propelling me towards boxing,” she reveals. “Almost without intending to, I had produced the makings of a book, spanning four years of my love affair with boxing.”
Marion took considerable inspiration from an aunt who died in 2017. She had lived in Dundee and Broughty Ferry.
“Despite serious health problems, nothing ever fazed her. She was a serial risk-taker, determined to enjoy life to the full.
“She would stride for miles along the front at Broughty Ferry, in all weathers, shunning buses and taxis, her failing heart glad for the outing. Nothing would deprive her of a walk.
“She told me to never apologise for or ask permission to do anything, and, more than anyone, she encouraged me in my boxing endeavours.”
Marion’s book – The Boxing Diaries – was published in January and, as well as being a story of boxing obsession, it’s about wellness, hard work, companionship and bravery.
Marion’s ultimate test thus far has been stepping into the ring to spar against “real” opponents.
“The idea is to outwit your opponent and not to pulverise them!” she laughs. “I am far beyond the age limit for serious competitive fighting, where risk and injury rates are higher and this is probably just as well.”
Ultimately, Marion hopes her book will inspire other women, particularly those over 50, to take up the sport.
“Just turn up at any reputable boxing gym and you’ll be made to feel very welcome, whatever your level of fitness.
“Boxing training sessions are cheap and unpretentious, but be prepared to work hard. If you have a medical condition, it’s wise to have a health check before embarking on a programme of intense exercise.”
Be warned – The Boxing Diaries is a knockout memoir that could make you want to start swinging punches, too!
The Boxing Diaries by Marion Dunn is published by Saraband, £9.99. saraband.net