The Menopausal Marathoner

Tina was a non runner just over a year ago. now she’s a marathoner…

My marathon journey started on a slightly damp and dismal day in November 2016. After a  Sunday skills session in Mawsley with the SheCan crew we naturally went for coffee and cake…I was obviously enjoying it too much, as when Kate said she wasn’t doing Brighton marathon in 2017, even though she already had a place, mouth worked before brain, (not unusual!), and I heard a voice saying “I’ll do it if it can be transferred!” And so it began.

It actually took till nearly Christmas for it to be confirmed that Brighton had okayed me to take Kates place – December 13th to be exact.

What had I done???

My training was tough at times…..completely solo until the last couple of sessions, no iPod for company, just me and the trails and roads around Irthlingborough. Thankfully, Katy Hadaway joined me for a couple at the end, which, I now realise, lifted my moral enormously.

April 8th 2017

Caught the train to Brighton at lunchtime to pick up my race pack. Kev knows Brighton quite well and we meandered to the seafront through The Lanes so I could calm myself down. So many people! I was also a little nervous of the fact the weather forecast had said highs of 17 degrees for Sunday – I hadn’t planned for that, it is the UK after all.

This is it!!!

Preston Park. Wow. A sea of glowing, fluorescent lycra and a heady atmosphere filled with anticipation, excitement and nervousness. We quickly forged a pathway through the mass of bodies to the bag drop, and then headed to Green Zone. Thankfully, Julia & Liz were already there which put me much more at ease. I hadn’t realised till then just how nervous I was becoming which, I dare say, was actually a good feeling as I had been relatively calm in the week building up to it. Kev  took a couple of pics of us together, snatched a kiss and a good luck, and left me to it. We were in the corral waiting for about an hour as all the faster runners set off…then it was our turn. Julia and I had decided to see how much we could do together.

We set off at about a 12 – 12.30 pace, all good, turned a corner and….hill!!!  What? We weren’t even a mile in yet! Ah well, “head up, lift your feet, use your arms!” (Wonder where THAT thought came from…). Miles started to pass, we were at ‘chatting’ speed, sun was shining, hand slapping, and loving the cheers from the Brightoners. It was around mile 5 I heard Kev shout my name – it may have been early on, but it felt so good to hear a voice you know and to get a quick hug.

Heading on through the town was lovely, then it was time for the long stretch out, up by the golf course before turning back to the sea front for the first time. This road seemed never ending, but we were jollied along by some complete madman who was recording on his go-pro – he was certainly entertaining! As we turned into a small residential area, people had really started to walk occasionally. We slowed and had our second gel and a few sips of water. There were shouts to move over as an ambulance needed to get through, hope whoever it was for were not suffering too much. It was maybe then that the seriousness of the heat really became apparent. The forecast had been for highs of 17 up until today, but had changed in the morning to the low 20’s. And yes, it was feeling damned hot by now.

Back down the coast road and passing the golf club again, we could see the next water station. Yes!….or maybe not. They’d run out!! What? We weren’t even halfway and there was no water! We both still had supplies with us so carried on but it didn’t bode well. (To be fair to the organisers, I looked back a couple of minutes later and a lorry was dropping off more bottles – but it shouldn’t have completely run out before re-stocking).

It was then that we bumped into Emma, was good to have a chat with someone who sort of knew us. Not long after we also saw the lovely Laura Chambers!  Another hug that just had to be done!

Back through the town and my spirits lifted once more. I was absolutely loving it! I heard my name being screamed again, Kev and my step-daughter Tara were once again in just the right spot. I waved and went to run on but then thought I need another hug – I’m nearly half way and didn’t know if I’d see them again before the end, so I ran back and snatched a kiss and cuddle of them both. I really was so happy. In my own bubble I hadn’t realised my running mate was struggling a little. Julia asked me to carry on without her, but we stuck together for about another half mile until she insisted. She needed the loo and was going to find the next lot. After checking a couple more times that she really did feel ok, no headache etc I did continue.

It was a bit strange for a couple of miles knowing I was now solo, (if being among 12,000 people is solo!), but I muscled on. Back through the town and headed into another residential area, Church Street I think. It was around this point that I noticed an awful lot of people being treated by paramedics. And I mean a lot. Thankfully, the residents had sprinklers aimed at the road and kids with super soakers were doing their utmost to keep us cool. The support was unbelievable. Fresh fruit slices, water, Haribo, jelly babies – even got offered a really cold glass of prosecco (no, I didn’t!).

I was heading back down this residential area on the other side, when I saw Liz and then Julia again. I was so pleased! Especially seeing Julia as it allayed my fears that she had been struggling – she was still going and looked pretty strong! Just before the end of Church Street was the mile 18 marker – not sure if I was happy I’d got that far, or dreaded the thought of another 8 miles……ah well, onwards I go!

Mile 19 passed, mile 20…oh no – the dreaded Power station area. Support was thinning out rapidly, and more water stations hadn’t got any gels or cups, so if they even had water it was a case of cupping it in hands to drink it. I re-filled my bottle at every opportunity and found it sufficient. I’d passed so many people sitting on pavements, heads bent, or St Johns treating people, I wasn’t going to risk anything! I picked up discarded bottles frequently to pour over my wrists to cool myself down – it seemed to be working well for me. The industrial estate, while being a bit of a dead zone, had loads of sprinklers set up to run through, and this did indeed help.

I walked mile 21 and some of 22, chatting to a lovely lady called Debbie about everything and nothing. I recognised from our starting area so at least knew I must be doing ok considering. We started to run again, but she had more in her tank than me and headed forward. Just passed mile 23 and I realised I only had a ‘dog-walk’ left to do! Easy peasy right?! …….WRONG! It was here I had to give myself a good talking to – I even slapped myself round the face! As I’d started to tear up a little. I don’t think it was the dreaded wall…it was more a sense of “I’m going to do this! I’m going to finish a bloody marathon!”  Me, who around 18 months ago smoked 30 a day and easily demolished a bottle or 2 of wine of an evening! But I quickly said to myself that I wasn’t there….yet!

A bit more of a run walk run past the brightly coloured beach huts and I started to get the happy feeling again. The crowds were also building up – yay! The support is invaluable! It’s something you just can’t put into words. More fruit slices and Haribo being dished out – a small gesture but a great boost.

Mile 24 and 25 passed –run, walk, run, repeat. I heard someone say to a lady that was running for Guide dogs for the blind “Come on, you really can do this!” and I egged her on too, “It’s just a small dog walk left love, you can do it!” As I found myself saying this to help her on her way when struggling, it also helped me. The fantastic mile 26 marker came into sight when I heard my name being screamed once more – yep, Kev, Tara and my brother in law, Chris all screaming for me! I gave a royal wave as I carried on past them! I was doing this!

That last 0.2 of a mile was never ending though! And then I saw the official photographers lining both sides of the road, I could even hear the shutters going off as they snapped away…and the black rubber matting suddenly seemed to be zooming towards me….6 steps, 5, 4, 3, OMG! 2, 1, YES!!!!

The rest is a bit of a blur….I’d done it!  50 days before my 50th birthday, I’d completed a marathon! I am a marathoner! I’m menopausal, still slightly overweight, but I can run a marathon!

I’m a menopausal marathoner!!!

And I’m bloody well proud of myself!

Would I do another? Hell, yes! I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing! Evening the sobbing uncontrollably when I did eventually find my family nearly an hour later!

You should at least try it – at least once. You know you can…. I can! SheCan!

Oh… 4 days on, fully recovered I think….Except it seems I’ve just entered for 2018!!!



Brighton Marathon – A Supporter’s Story

It’s Brighton Marathon Eve, so we felt it was fitting to share Natalie’s blog…a supporter’s story.

Two years ago this weekend, I went down to Brighton for one of my best friends running the Marathon and it was a lovely weekend that we shared together, even though most of the time was spent apart!

I was there for her in a supporting role and I enjoyed every minute of it. The weather was beautiful and the sun cream was applied, but it was a bit too warm for running really and I didn’t envy anyone running in the heat.

The atmosphere was electric and though I didn’t get to see much of the actual race itself, I was there to soak up the remarkable achievements of everyone taking part and for the reasons why they were running. Everyone’s story was different and very personal to them.

I didn’t see my friend start as that was out of the town and I missed her on a corner that I was sure I was going to catch sight of her about 5k in, but I was tracking her on the App and we spoke on the phone.

I was there to take her mind off things when her foot started hurting around miles 15-16. I also encouraged her to keep going when things got tough and I hoped her seeking medical attention would help.

I managed to get a good spot on the finishing straight and I saw her at the finish and despite her pain and discomfort she looked strong on her approach to the finish line. I was so proud of her and her journey and I was completely inspired by her achievements of getting to that finish line. However, I was still completely ruling out the fact that I would ever be able to complete such a distance!

I wasn’t able to get to celebrate or congratulate my friend straight away as the charity village was extremely busy and not easy to get to and so I decided to wait on the upper seafront whilst my friend had her well deserved sports massage and complimentary sandwiches in a marquee below.

When we eventually met up, I couldn’t put into words how proud I was of her and I did get quite emotional. I felt both her pain and her relief of finishing. I was just so pleased to be there in person for her and to congratulate her.

I also got very excited about posting up her picture with her medal on to social media and then it was time to refuel and listen to her reflect on her run.

I just wanted to share this experience from the point of someone who was completely inspired by her friend’s running adventures. I felt honoured to be party to her marathon achievement and she did make me wonder if I could also take on that distance, as I sat there with only a few half marathons under my belt!

I think also it is worth saying, a seed was sown in my mind to whether I could ever run that far another year?

Never say never and yes #SheCan 💜

I would like to dedicate this blog to the wonderful ladies that I know are taking on Brighton this Sunday. I will be thinking of you and tracking you all. Go and have a great run x

Asthma – not just an excuse

Asthma. As a kid, what better excuse to get out of school cross country? You don’t even need to have an attack, just a note! Bring on years of happy, cross country free school days and zero expectations on sports day. I couldn’t have picked a more convenient excuse. Plus, you get to grow out of it, so it’s no bother.

With no symptoms as a young adult (one that smoked too), i wondered if my childhood asthma had actually just been the odd case of hyperventilating, misdiagnosed and used wholly to my advantage.

I was comfortable with that conclusion right up until the age of 28, when i was rather reluctantly talked into giving running a go as a way to lose my post-baby #3 excess weight. Initially I put the constant breathlessness down to too many cigarettes over the past 13 years. I had given up by now but knew it would take a while for my lungs to start functioning better. Several months of training followed, gradually building up my fitness, but at a much slower rate than the friends I had taken up running with.

The first 5k I ever did was a Race for Life run in Bedford in July 2012. I had put some effort into training but was still very unfit. I got around without dying and instantly the running bug bit. I wanted more of this!

Several months of running very short distances went by, each run as hard as the last, lungs refusing to  join the party. I’m not sure why I didn’t think to talk to a doctor at this point. I think I was just so convinced that it was down to the fact that I wasn’t designed to run, it never occurred to me that it might be a medical issue. Until October of the same year – my running friends and I were taking on our first “proper” 5k race. This wasn’t for charity, this was for us because we were now real runners…..well, this real runner got to about 2 miles in and had to stop and walk. And cry. Why the heck couldn’t i breathe? Seriously, i was only trying to run a flat 3 miles. I’d done it before, several times, but in the cold my lungs just said no.

It was after that experience I gave in to my bestie’s nagging and visited the doctors. Turned out it wasn’t because I wasn’t built like a runner that I was struggling, but because i did indeed have asthma. The very thing I had used as an excuse to not exercise was now doing it’s best to stop me all over again – except this time I really didn’t want it too. Life likes it’s ironies.


So that was the initial diagnosis early on in my running journey.  Initially I didn’t think it would be too much of an issue. Asthma is no big deal right?  The doctor gives you inhalers and you feel better and your lungs get stronger with exercise and eventually you forget you’ve even got it. Well no, turns out I got that pretty wrong. It actually took more than 3 years and a change of asthma clinic to find a combination of medicines that keep my asthma at bay enough for me to run without sounding like Sammy the seal and collapsing at the end, completely exhausted and leaving me with chest pain for days after.

I’ve been lucky recently that alot more research has been done into asthma and there are new medicines available out there. Ironically my asthma is exercise induced, but also triggered by hay fever, allergens, temperature changes etc It can still be unpredictable and triggered by new things as yet inexperienced!  I take a great steroid inhaler that worked very well for exercise induced asthma, use a standard reliever when needed, i take a tablet every night to prevent too much mucus production, a steroid nasal spray every night and an antihistamine every morning to try to keep the allergies at bay.

Most of the time this combination works well enough to keep me plodding on although it takes a few weeks with every season change to get used to the new temp/allergens etc.

One thing I learnt early on was that I was never going to be able to run at speed. The drying out of the airways from the excessive breathing irritates the lungs quite quickly. This was one of the reasons I started looking into long distance running quite early on. In fact I’d decided to run an ultra before I had even experienced my first marathon!

Turns out ultra running suits my style. Slower running, walking up hills and eating lots of food. What’s not to love? I’ve had to adapt – summer running has never been great for me as I’m allergic to tree and grass pollen – but 2 seasons of July ultras has hardened me up to it a bit.

A hug from the bestie at the end of my 1st ultra


I look for lots of advice and experience from other sufferers and people in the know. I got quite excited last year when one of the regular running magazines advertised that it had a whole piece on how you can still run in the summer with hay fever.  I bought the copy and went straight to the article, just knowing I was about to have the meaning of life revealed to me…..

“….avoid running outside in areas where there is a high probability of coming across pollen….”


I’ve tried several things – a face mask that filters out allergens and makes me look like Hannibal Lecter; smearing odd smelling balm under my nose; refusing to believe I have asthma and not taking my meds.

None of them work.

There have been many runs where I have been reduced to tears, turning the air blue with expletives aimed at my lungs. They function at more than 20% less capacity than they should and sometimes I could really do with that 20%!! A cold can very quickly become a chest infection, which can take quite a long time to recover from and the first few runs post infection always leave me exhausted, frustrated and with a very see chest.

Quite alot of people discover that they have exercise induced asthma when they take up sport as an adult. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor, keep an open mind and accept the help offered. I resisted the idea of asthma for quite a while, it felt like such a naff excuse. When your muscles stop working because you haven’t got enough oxygen going around your body, you realise that it’s no excuse, it’s a pretty scary reality.

Running with asthma isn’t always fun but it is absolutely possible and should not be used as an excuse not to try.

If I can do it, I promise you that you most definitely can!!


When things have to change…

Being in pain makes you miserable. Fact.

Actually, I don’t think that comes as any surprise to anyone apart from me. I’ve had joint pain for nearly 25 years now but only recently been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and treated with disease modifying drugs. For the 6 years before that I lived on heavy duty NSAIDs and before that on anti depressants as I was misdiagnosed.

 Me at the Bedford Race for Life in 2010

My first attempt at running – race for life


I started running in my 30s, as a way to lose weight. The dodgy ankle was very much present even back then and the lower back pain was usually there reminding me of my extra 4 stone that I tried to limp around with me. I lost weight but the pain continued. I don’t know what it was back then, I suppose it was the fire in my belly that drove me on through the pain and through several marathons.
It’s different now. The last couple of years the game changed. The pain was still there; a mix of throbbing bones keeping me from sleeping and muscles so tight and sore that I struggled to stand in the mornings. The pain didn’t change. But something deep inside my being asked me to stop and re-evaluate what I was doing.

So I did, for a minute. And then decided to sign up for one more half marathon.


As you do.I trained through the summer, I would even say that with the help of Methotrexate I relatively sailed through 6,7,8 and 9 mile long runs. As the season started to change, my last long run felt more uncomfortable and left me feeling flu like for days. It was a timely reminder of what my body had asked months before- stop and re-evaluate.
So I ran the Royal Parks Half.
It was harsh, right from the start. Sometimes it takes me 4 miles to warm up, so I held on to that. 4 miles passed and I still felt out of sync. 5,6,7 miles. “This is flipping ridiculous” I thought “I shouldn’t be doing this”. I then passed a man who had fallen and who was receiving CPR. I can’t put in to words what that did. Suddenly I just wanted my family. I wanted to stop this stupid race, a race I knew I shouldn’t be doing because my body had already done so much for me. I was tearful and emotionally drained.
I saw my husband just a few minutes later and cut across the runners to grab a cuddle. He told me to hang on, to get round however I could and to keep smiling. He gave me renewed hope that I still had enough fight in me to finish what I’d started. To do my last half and to get that medal.
I walked most of the last 3 miles, tears in my eyes, praying that the man I’d seen would be ok. I later learned that he died. It shook me to my core. Long distances are not to be messed with. It had become so easy for me to say ‘oh it’s only a half’. It’s 13.1 flipping miles! 13.1! It’s a long way and it puts our bodies under a lot of stress. It’s no time to be a hero if you’re not in a fit state to finish. For the first time ever, I considered myself so lucky to have finished.
That race has played over and over in my mind ever since. I have begun to realise that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone (including myself). I just need to be here for my family and friends. I can’t lie, it’s going to be tough not putting the miles in with my friends, eating what I like because I’m running 30+ miles a week and enjoying the post marathon buzz. It’s easy to get caught up in the marathon excitement, especially when the London Marathon ballot results are first out and when fellow runners start upping their miles in the spring. It would be easy to sit and wallow in self pity that I can’t and never will be able to run another marathon. But I’m refusing to allow myself to think that way. There must be something else, I suppose the next challenge is finding it.
At least with no marathon to train for, It gives me time to re-evaluate. On to new things and new challenges. I’m often asked (usually by non-runners) why I run when it hurts so much and makes me feel so poorly. Truth is, I don’t like it much. But what I do love is the running community and in particular the SheCan… tribe. It’s not just about running, that is such a small part of it. It’s about sharing good times and sad times, running off the angst, building self confidence, self worth and resilience. It’s about cake, diet coke and really grim gels. It’s about having a group of people around you who know why you run stupid miles, in stupid weather and understand that when you can’t run it’s the worst feeling in the world.
As we approach the peak of the spring long distance race season, I am choosing to reflect on how many miles I have run, not how many miles I’ve missed out  on because I have the body of an old lady. It’s about choosing to see the positives, not wallow in the could have beens.
I may be down but not out. Not yet.

SheCan…and SheWill…Part 2

Well it’s the morning after the SheCan 10k and oh my gosh I feel a mixed bag of emotions. All day yesterday I was mentally preparing myself. Running isn’t just about using your body, it’s a whole mind game as well. I knew that my body was ready, I walked lots over the weekend, managed a 5k Sunday run, medication is sort of working, I have no constant pain at the moment.

But was my head ready for it?


I haven’t run further than 5k since getting ill in September. Well apart from last Monday’s SheCan 4 mile adventure. So even though my body was feeling ready I had to psych myself up. I had to prepare my mind to stay positive through it all. Being an orange hat really helps me with this and I know that I have to be positive in all the runs no matter how tough I am feeling it.

I can tell you now, it was feeling tough.

Towards the end my legs wanted to walk but I didn’t let anyone else know how I felt. I smiled and gave all the encouragement I could give. I am so proud of that because all of the ladies were amazing. But at the same time I am so happy, I also feel gutted. And I know I shouldn’t because I worked hard. But I can’t stop thinking about how this time last year my running life was so much different. I was easily pushing out 10ks at a pace that I was happy with. Last night’s run left me tired and after looking at my watch the pace was the slowest it’s been in years. That’s what I am gutted at. I remember telling the ladies one of my favourite running sayings ‘a 7 minute mile is the same as a 12 minute mile’ it really is but a tiny part of me still thinks I can do better and I will.

So as I sit on the sofa thinking about having a nice walk on a sunny day, I just need to think don’t look back but look forward. I can get better again and I will get better again.

Thanks for reading and happy running!


Massive thanks to Jodie, for being a wonderful orange hat, for pushing through and for always being such an inspiration. It’s ok to have a bad day though. We’re a community there for each other and that means letting others support you too x

SheCan…and SheWill Part 1

tonight is the first part of a series on running with chronic illness…written by the lovely jodie


Hi everyone!

Where to start. Maybe a little bit about my running history. I first started when I was at uni in 2008, something free and something to keep me fit. Running along to sunny Portsmouth seafront was great. When I moved back home I kept it up with my cousin, someone who was super fit. I struggled to keep up with her at my plodding pace but I managed and completed a few 10k Race for Life events with her.

Then I was just about to move out of the county and Emily and Kate started up SheCan…Run. I always said to myself if I ever came back the first thing I would do would join SheCan and it was. SheCan gave me the confidence to run faster, loose a bit of weight and make fantastic friendships. Since joining the ladies my running has gone from strength to strength. I ran further than I could have ever imagined including two marathons and two ultramarathons.

My first marathon bling!


Anyway enough about my running history, I wanted to blog not only about running but also about running with a chronic illness. I have something called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). A condition where cysts grow in my kidneys and liver, cause high blood pressure, enlarged kidneys, kidney infections, cyst infections and a decrease in kidney function ultimately leading to need dialysis and a kidney transplant, among other things as well (too many to mention). I have known this since just before my 18th birthday. That is why one of the reasons I like to run, it keeps me healthy, happy and my consultant says it’s really good for me.

After completing an ultramarathon last July I was the fittest I had ever been. I was in great shape and loved my running life. However things took a turn for the worst with my health, I had a bleed from a large cyst in my right kidney and was hospitalised for ten days. Now lots of people have different opinions on what caused my bleed from the impact of Go Ape (which I will be doing again), to pushing my body too far (running an ultra marathon) with exercise. I don’t think it was any of these. It was just something that happened and something that may happen again in the future. A side effect of my chronic illness.

Anyway, running took a back seat. Keeping fit took a back seat. Life went on hold for a while. Constantly feeling tired, zapped of energy meant even the slightest thing like the food shop would leave me needing a nap for hours. It’s taken six months of trips back to the doctors, months of anti-biotics and changes in medication I am slowly getting back on my feet. I have worked hard keeping myself healthy and I can now say I am happily running 5k’s again. A recent consultant appointment left me in shock about how much not running and exercising has changed my body. But I am aware that I need to find a balance and I need to get healthy for my kidneys sake.


Race To The Stones 2016


But I can tell you it’s been hard work. This time last year I was training for Brighton Marathon with a great group of friends. A memory that I love. Now I am running my slowest 5k’s in years. I am a mixed bag of running emotions. At times I feel frustrated because I am going so slow (looking at my watch is never good), sometimes I feel great and full of motivation to run (like this morning) and then I can feel so shattered I can’t move of the sofa (like Wednesday night). But I know I need to keep going at it. It’s going to be a slow, long and windy road but as long as I believe I can, I know I will. With the help and support from the great group of friends at SheCan I will get there again…