Category Archives: embarrassing moments

You’ve got to be kidney-ing me

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You’ve got a rare congenital kidney disease, but there’s only a 10 per cent risk of morbidity.”

“What? I can’t die yet!” I have three daughters and the youngest is only nine-years-old.” That was my first thought when my urologist gave me the diagnosis for what was ‘wrong’ with my kidneys. The second thought that poured out of my mouth was: “Is this going to affect my running?” The third – I’m only 44. “I need at least 10 years,” I replied – the youngest will be old enough to fend for herself then.

“Your kidneys have managed for 40 years, there’s nothing to worry about,” he said (he obviously doesn’t know that women with multiple children have three things in common: guilt, worry and the ability to cry at anything, even an advert about chocolate).

“People with this condition – Cacchi Ricci disease (isn’t she an American actress?) – often have problems with absorption of calcium or potassium citrate. We’ll need to do further tests,” the doctor said. I really didn’t care.


Finding new ways to keep my body strong – and new faces at the same time

All I could think about was how unfair it would be for my kids for me to die when they’ve already been through divorce and all the rubbish this heaped on them. I didn’t give a flying toss about whether I wasn’t absorbing one mineral or another, or the consequences (potassium citrate inhibits the production of kidney stones, so if I’m not producing this I’m in trouble as I’ve got hundreds of tiny crystals all waiting and ready to go/grow).

I suddenly understand though – the reason for the increasingly painful urinary tract infections I’ve had all my adult life, and the kidney pain. And the kidney infections. When the pieces of your biological puzzle are suddenly slotted into place by a deep body scan you are given a gift. Knowledge. This brings relief. So now I know why this happens. Still, I don’t care about it.

But wait, I thought, driving home, I forgot to ask you doc, does this explain why my bladder also doesn’t want to work sometimes? Yep, it’s not just that I can’t sleep through the night without getting up to pee, I can’t sleep for two hours. Oh and what about the leaks – oh yes, I’m getting them more when I run (that’s right, in public where everyone can see me). Especially if I am putting in some effort. Is this going to get better/worse/disappear? And doc, did I tell you I’m only 44? I’m just not ready for this. I need 30 years more to get prepared.


It’s not all been bad this year, I got a bronze in the England 10-mile championships as part of the third placed ladies team

So now I had the name (though no one else has heard of it and I’m already bored of repeating it), I obviously had the condition, but I knew it wasn’t going to be part of my life. I didn’t own it and tell everyone about it because even though it’s there I don’t care that it is. If I was born with it what can I do? So why make it important to me?

I felt lucky – this was my chance to prove that despite *this* (you get to insert whatever you’ve got into this sentence here) any of us can still knock out a PB if we believe we can and adapt our training. It’s also called bloody mindedness (something to do with having Taurus somewhere in my chart). You tell me I can’t do something. I then try to do it.

The moment when you realise you've got a PB, and beaten the zebra!

The moment when you realise you’ve got a PB, and beaten the zebra!

First I changed my training to one week of effort, one week of slow running.  Next I had to try for a PB. I needed to prove to the disease it’s not going to slow me down. And I mean lifetime PB not age group. The hardest distance for me, as a long distance runner, is 5K. This was my target.

When the next set of tests came back they showed (of course) that my body doesn’t produce enough potassium citrate, so I’ll be taking it every day from now on.

Some weeks I can’t run. It’s like being burnt out, where the flame I need to fire my fuel is so weak that energy is not a by-product. And my kidneys scream with pain. So what. They are extra rest weeks. I’m having to skip lots of training. I can’t compete with those who are knocking out the miles, reps, races. But why would I want to? They aren’t me.

Photo on 30-08-2012 at 17.38

This is how I feel when I run

But every single run I make feels like biting into buttercream. And each one gives me the chance to meditate for a while on having strong, clear kidneys that restore health to my body. The mud that flicks up into my mouth and eyes is the earthy reminder of the beauty of that very moment, right there. The friends who I run with become soldiers beside me who share the fight against apathy and acceptance of what is or what could be. Together in our sweaty march we show ourselves and the world we still can. Despite. Something.

A spring marathon number is waiting for me. With less training and less effort my kidneys and I plan to be at the start, lining up with thousands of others running despite of ‘something’. My two speckled organs won’t care what time we finish in. Neither will my three girls.

I’m not going to die. Well, I am but you know what I mean. I’m starting to feel I don’t really know this body that’s mine (I’d just like to point out to my biological self that travelling through the crooked and weird journey of early menopause was challenge enough for this year). The last appointment I had with my doctor I asked two very important questions: can I still train hard, and is drinking alcohol forbidden? I did get my PB and no I didn’t wet myself when I did it (though there have been a couple of other times this year when this isn’t strictly true). And the answer was a yes. And a no.

One of the reasons I run - I did the GSR after the birth of each of my girls, just to show them you can!

One of the reasons I run – I did the GSR after the birth of each of my girls, just to show them you can!

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Who am I?

noo noo girl running for David

You know you are really bored at work when you put your name into the internet to see what comes up. Having quite a distinctive name, I was shocked when I did this yesterday, as someone else with my name came up on twitter. Obviously, I wanted to tweet to them that I was the real me. Then it got me thinking, if I believe I am the real me, who is this other me with the same name? Now I understand if your name is John Brown or Sam Smith that you may have grown up without that feeling of utter uniqueness that my early life was comfortably cushioned with. Not only did I stand out at school due to my naturally burnt white hair, but my name was very different. Today, in any school playground, there are hoards of parents who have called their totally unique offspring totally uninspiring names; Harry’s, Charlotte’s, Millie’s and Charlie’s pepper school registers like nappy rash on a three-month-old baby’s bottom.

This got me thinking, and it made me realise how I have a peculiar habit when I am out running, whether plodding on the paths or racing on the hills; I often wonder if people recognise who I am. So even though when I meet someone, and instantly recall who they are when I see them for a second time and greet them with hello, I never assume that the person who has met me will remember who I am. You don’t need to be an amateur psychologist to deduce there may be some insecurity issues lurking in my subconscious mind. Is it the little girl in me, lacking in self-esteem, trying to undermine her 43-year-old big sister? I have even embarrassed myself recently at a press conference by offering my hand in hello to someone who chided me for being so coy, grabbed me and kissed me on the cheek. Even though we had met several times, I wasn’t sure if he would remember me!

This curious belief, like many, is based on some small grain of self-perceived truth. Question: What do you do when you meet someone, say at a barbecue, and chat with them for a while, then when your paths next cross and there you are, waving across a street at them, or throwing them a hearty hello, they blank you? Plausible answer: assume the person either can’t remember who you are, doesn’t like you. Of course maybe they are just not as socially eager as you, as well.

This scenario has happened to me a few times as an adult, and either I am someone, after first impressions, that you don’t want to ever talk to again, or I am instantly forgettable. Neither option is a great ego-boost. There is however, a third explanation – that there is another me out there. My doppelgänger, I assume, lives somewhere exotic or romantic – on the coast of Croatia, or a dusty backstreet of a Moroccan souk. She spends her life nurturing her creativity, exploring universal concepts of space/time mediums and honing her body into the immaculate, powerful temple it was born to be. This shaggy haired darker skinned person is both me and not me.

So when I stumble upon a new acquaintance who rebukes my friendly hailing should I wonder if it was the other me they met? What, also, should I do about this other me on twitter; should I contact them and ask them to stand down from our name and assume another one? And, if I am out running, and I see someone that I think I know, and that I think knows me, but I assume either doesn’t know me enough to say hello, or may not want to take that little leap over the line of familiarity, I will do as I often do… I will put a half-grimace on my face and look vaguely away. If I have already done this to you, all I can do is apologise – or was it the other me, the one I just met on twitter…? Maybe putting in my contacts every time I leave the house will solve the whole problem.

Learning new control


noo noo girl running for David

I am truly loving my running. I can now jog along quite happily, with different parts of my body bouncing at different speeds. My running buddies from my club are already talking about my entering a race – a short one mind you, ‘just to get me used to running at a threshold pace for a bit longer’. The different paces members of the club run and train at confused me for a while, but as I begin to understand their terminology a whole new dimension to my life is gently opening up, just like the delicate crocuses that have dared to peep out of the frozen British soil. Mental stimulation as well as mental challenges are both something I associate with the pre-children ‘me’. Juggling, emptying, entertaining, taxiing, washing, nurturing and educating my children require a finite amount of skill plus an ordering of the mind and each and every day of our lives; it doesn’t require me to really push myself to new limits.

I have a feeling running may fill this lonely space in my self that wishes to be roused into life. This I am happy about, despite of the physical challenge that is probably the easier of the two at the moment. One thing that has shocked me is the (unbeknownst to me) terrible state of my pelvic floor muscles. Despite diligently working my pelvic floor post childbirth the first time round, I was too overwhelmed the second time to even think, or care, about damage limitation on this wonderful sling of muscles that are so vital (your pelvic floor muscles are the broad sling of muscles which stretch between your legs, extending from the pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the rear. Their function in life is to hold your delicate bits in place). Hence, after jogging gently during out warm-up to a stretch of grass to run some 400 metre sprints, I was horrified whilst completing a mini-circuit with super-star jumps that I temporarily had no control of my bladder – in front of 25 other runners. Forwards movement isn’t a problem; jumping up and down has suddenly become something I fear.

This has helped me understand why many women, post-childbirth, are put off from exercising. Luckily, running doesn’t seem to effect my bladder control at all, and after mentioning on the way back from our session to another lady how embarrassed I had felt, she informed me that it is never too late to work your pelvic floor! It seems I am not alone; when she informed me she had once wet herself whilst running a race (“It was OK, it was raining and I was wearing black running tights.”) we both giggled (beware: too much of this whilst running can also lead to little ‘accidents’); I am now practising holding my pelvic floor at my desk, whilst I watch my children during their swimming lessons, even when cooking dinner. All women with a similar dilemma: exercising your pelvic floor muscles can make a difference and can lead to dramatic improvement within a few weeks. Please note: this could have the added bonus of improving your sex life! Running really has taught me so much about my body.


Trotting on down the road

noo noo girl running for David

Never have I laughed so much as during what is now the infamous ‘toilet’ scene in last year’s comedy ‘sleeper’ Bridesmaids, where the bridal party are hit with a case of food poisoning in a plush dress shop and, well, you can probably imagine the rest. Never have I wanted to cry so much when I had similar ‘urges’ during my first run in the new year. Admittedly, I, like the rest of the nation, over-indulged in both food and alcohol; probably the latter much more than the former. So, feeling far too fragile on New Year’s Day to do my hair-of-the-dog run, I caught up with the rest of the running fraternity a few days later. I was groggy, yes. I was tired, yes. I still felt hungover. Definitely yes. However, I zoomed off, door slamming behind me, with such ebullience and enthusiasm I caught myself unawares.

Legs were working, the skies were blue, my spirit was happy and rewarding me for such a gratifying activity. (My subconscious cosily ignoring the fact that I had been too overwhelmed with festivity for three weeks to remember I am now a runner. Which means I have to run. At least once a week.) Then it hit me. I was horrified. Mentally, I checked my geographical location and the social demography of the people within sight. As my stomach took a turn for the worse, warning me that far, far worse was to come, I tried to be resourceful and find what I can only describe as a temporary toilet. I am blessed to run down country roads, but on this day there were people seemingly all around, conspiring to deny me the privacy and isolation I very desperately sought. I even considered: have I got the courage to find a bush and temporary relief? Then the thought of mummy finding out, from one of her social group that her only daughter was spotted in full daylight in uncompromising circumstances flew into my head. We live in a small village where privacy can not be bought and social herding is at its most rampant.

Knowing I had no choice but to make it back to home, I dug deep, just like my new running friends keep telling me to, and, literally trotted home due to the severe stomach cramps that were telling me I had to find a toilet, NOW. As I squirmed my way down the last road, home was finally in sight. It was like playing out the worst sporting moments you see on those painful TV programmes created specifically to find pleasure in other people’s misfortune. I am proud to say I made it to my finish-line, flying in through the front door and shouting to the whole household: “Don’t get in my way I need the toilet NOW!”, without either causing or having an accident. This, my jolly running friends confided in me on my next club night, is the joy of the running trots. It has been an enlightening experience, and typical of my running so far; extremely painful at the time, but, on reflection another chance in life to take away some enjoyment and laughter.