A LOCAL university student is sure to turn heads when she runs the London Marathon later this year.
But it won’t be Francesca Balchin’s performance which will catch the crowd’s eye – rather her costume.
For the 22-year-old will don a burlesque costume – if she can get enough people to sponsor her!
Francesca, who grew up in Westleigh but is currently studying for a Master’s in Film Studies at Queen Mary’s University in London, decided to take on the famous course to raise money for the Epilepsy Society.
However, Francesca combines her academic studies with a second career as a burlesque dancer, and has decided she will run in full outfit if enough people sponsor her.
Francesca, 22, decided to run the marathon in a spur-of-the-moment burst of inspiration while watching last year’s race.
She said: “It was a very impulsive decision. I thought I would be in London for next year’s race, so I would have a go.
“This is my first proper go at raising money for charity, although I did the Race for Life in 2007.
“Quite a few of my friends are serious runners, and they all put in for the London Marathon ballot, but none of them got into the race, and I did, which was quite amusing.”
Although completing the 26.2-mile test would be enough for most people in their first charity fund-raiser, Francesca has decided to make things more difficult by running in a corset if she raises more than £500. She began doing burlesque in her first year of undergraduate study at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, and hopes to make burlesque in cinema the subject of her PhD thesis.
She said: “I started when I was in The Threepenny Opera, and the director decided to make my role a burlesque one. I just love the fun and potential for subversive comedy and parody in it, and the costumes are great. I decided that, if I raised £500, I would run the marathon in a corset, and then it will go up from there. I will have to put other items of my burlesque outfit on if people raise enough.”
Francesca is currently training when her studies allow and added: “The biggest problem will be if I raise enough money, because then I’ll have to do some training in my burlesque outfit. At least I’m in London, in some areas it’s unlikely anyone will bat an eyelid.”
Francesca decided to raise money for the Epilepsy Society after both she and her older sister Tina, now 27, suffered seizures between the ages of eight and 11.
Although the condition can be controlled with medication, Francesca says neurological illnesses such as epilepsy are often poorly understood, and the charity gives vital support to families of sufferers.
She said: “I didn’t know much about the society when I was younger, I only found out about their work when I started following them on Twitter.
“I think it’s important for other families to be aware of it early on. It’s quite a difficult condition to raise money for, because you can’t see the effects, and very few people get violent fits and seizures. Because it’s neurological, you can’t get rid of it, you can only suppress the symptoms. I haven’t had seizures since I was 11, but it could come back at any time.”