I felt the pressure to run again and now feel like an arthritic carthorse
PUBLISHED: 18:18 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 18:18 06 February 2019
Rachel Moore joined the growing number of people who have taken up running - but found that rather than help her not become a burden on the NHS, it may have had the opposite effect
Run, they said. Run to get fit after sitting on your bum all day at work, they said. Run for a longer life.
Run for your mental health, to stave off anxiety and over-thinking, to set off those endorphins. You’ll feel great, they said.
Join the running ‘sisterhood’, full of over-50s women jogging their way into the third trimester of life, limbering – and lumbering – in Lycra, sticking the Vs up to ageing.
Parkrun is where it’s at. It’s all about the Saturday morning, licking through a 5k, motivated by camaraderie and virtuosity, in luminous lime-green jerkins, to justify the Saturday night G&T.
If you haven’t completed the Couch to 5k, are you even alive? If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Run, run, run.
The pressure to get moving, and prove you do it, is huge, and bigger the older you get. It’s our responsibility to stay healthy and reduce burden on the NHS.
The greatest exercise surge is in the over-60s, the age group spending the most time at the gym. They have the time, I suppose, but the 50s are hot on their heels, trying to get everything moving and supple before it’s too late.
I know, I know. It makes perfect sense and is sage advice, medical advice. Exercise is prescribed by doctors and is recognised preventative action. Bravo.
But, you can have the best intentions and then nature gets in the way, and you end up with injuries that cost the NHS.
After years of filing exercise near the bottom of an ever-lengthening to do list, creaking joints and serious FOMO – fear of missing out – as everyone became evangelical about the parkrun cult, I put on my running shoes and had a go.
Not one to boast, but running was once my thing. I made the team regularly for North Suffolk cross country championships in the late 1970s. Running is like riding a bike, surely? If you could do it once…
So off I went, with my (nearly 20 years younger) friend and had a go with her clifftop running club. I kept up, the people were great, I wasn’t out of puff and I woke up pain-free the next day, striding smugly into the office. I’d give it another go.
Cockily, I cracked the 5k at a gentle pace – my “ninja running”, as my much, much younger friend described it. A bit of a hip niggle for the next couple of days went, I did a little run with the dog at the weekend, and completed another 5k the next week.
That was a week ago. Since then I’ve been hobbling like an arthritic old carthorse, with tremendous pain in both knees. I can barely walk, let alone run.
Yup, the endorphins were great, for a few minutes, but no-one talks about running injuries or risk of over doing things. How quickly pride can sink to pain.
Yes, 50 might be the new 30. It might have felt good at the time, but now I can’t even imagine walking to the car without pain. And, before you shout, I wore proper running shoes.
My mother’s generation would have been horrified to have been urged to run, and be seen running in the street. A weekly church hall class of Call the Midwife-style Stretch and Struggle was the exercise of choice back then, or yoga for the more alternative and exotic – or, more likely, no exercise at all.
“I have a present for you,” my caring partner said as I old-lady-noised my way up from the sofa.“Ibuprofen, the best friend of the over-50s.”
So, full of good intentions and leaf turning, I’m nursing my first ever sports injuries at 54, with painful swollen knee joints, an ungainly gait and an Ibuprofen habit. And this was supposed to get me fit, improve my mental health and set me up for a long life. Thanks, Healthwatch, what a fine mess you’ve got me into.
Perhaps I should have listened instead to my grandmother, who never broke into a sweat, never hurried and never worried – sat in a chair, ate everything high in saturated fat and lived mostly health-issue-free until she was 96.
Clearly I have her genes, and not those of a long-distance runner.