Finding my (running) feet with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Life starts at the end of your comfort zone

Running is so far past the end of my comfort zone, it isn’t even in the same county!

I have, for reasons unbeknown to me, signed up to complete the Birmingham Half Marathon. Having never been a runner, not even before my diagnosis of RA, I can only assume I was experiencing some sort of brain fog (common with RA medication) when I signed my life away.

Anyway, signed up I have so I’ve had to actually start running. I see so many people running and enjoying themselves that I can only assume that at some point it becomes enjoyable – I have not yet reached that stage.

I have managed to build up to the lengthily distance of 5km (3 miles) and although running at a pace barely above walking, at the end of each run I look as though I have completed a marathon, bright red and out of breath.

On top of my lack of cardio fitness, those living with RA will know that the disease often effects the feet, and I am no exception. Recently I had an appointment with a podiatrist and following several X-rays of my feet I asked what the verdict was… I wish I hadn’t bothered. Apparently there are ‘multiple’ issues each requiring surgery. Yay. One of these ‘issues’ is a dropped metatarsal which basically means it constantly feels like I am walking on a hard stone, running seems like a sensible choice then?

Luckily, with the help of (which came at a price) trainers specifically for running and with ample cushioning to reduce the pain, my feet aren’t actually that painful when I run. So with my feet ‘sorted’ I can begin enjoying my running and training. Except that I can’t…

We are only 8 weeks away from the half marathon, 13miles of running and I have missed the previous 5 weeks of training due to an RA flare. So I really feel like I’m starting from scratch with 8 short weeks to go.

I have managed to scare myself, I have developed a fear of pushing myself in training and anything beyond 5km worries me. The thing I am struggling with, and have struggled with since diagnosis is learning to listen to my body – it isn’t always that I don’t listen, it’s just sometimes I don’t understand the language.

What do I mean by this? Well, our bodies are great at giving us warning signs, indications that we are pushing our limits; that we need to take our foot off the gas. The problem is that our mind is also fantastic at giving us grit and determination, pushing us on. In certain situations this is helpful, as stated in the opening quote of this blog. Our mind can drive us to achieving things we didn’t think were possible. It helps us go that extra mile but when is that extra mile a mile too far?

When I am out running I know it’s going to be hard, that it will be a challenge , but what I am still finding my feet with is when is that extra mile too much? When should I be pushing the edge of my comfort zone and when is my body and RA telling me enough is enough? I can’t seem to work it out. I am constantly wondering what is a ‘normal’ level of discomfort? I am hopeful that as I get further into my running journey I will develop an understanding of this.

Although I talk about finding and knowing my limits in the context of running and RA, I think this is something we can all relate to, how often do we push ourselves to our limits and how often do we push that bit too far? Learning the language of our body is hard and something we can all improve on. Knowing when to stop and look after ourselves is essential for success.

Do you know your limits?

PS Although at the beginning of this blog I stated that I didn’t know why I signed up to the Half Marathon, that isn’t strictly true – I signed up to raise money for LoveBrum because of their passion and enthusiasm for helping worthy causes in Birmingham.

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