Marathons, Menopause and Martinis, a Midlife Runners’ Story

At the turn of the millennium, when I was in my late thirties, I was overweight and didn’t exercise at all. As an Executive PA who worked near the Bluewater Shopping centre, I would spend every lunchtime there, wandering around. I don’t even like shopping! It was soul-destroying. So a friend and I joined a gym where we went swimming at lunchtime, instead of looking in shop windows. It was the first gym I had ever joined and very soon, I was hooked.

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Now, in my mid-fifties, I’m a personal trainer. I’ve run three marathons and so many half marathons and 10ks I’ve lost count. I go to my local parkrun, help out with the Junior parkrun and also lead a running group twice a week. Along with my regular training I probably run about 25 to 30k a week and my running addiction doesn’t look like it’s diminishing anytime soon.

At first I only ran in the gym but after I’d lost 2½ stone, I signed up for a 5k Race for Life. Then I did another and before I knew it, I’d somehow ended up with place in the 2009 London Marathon. I know people apply year after year but I got a place the first time. Terrifying! But I trained and did well (4 hours and 25 minutes)

The second marathon, a couple of years later though, was a different story. I was really struggling with my training. I had no energy and on race day, the furthest I’d run in training was 9 miles. I went into it with a plan to split the race up into 5x 5 mile runs. That didn’t work at all. By mile 7, I was walking. It was such a disappointment.

Then my training went from bad to worse. I had the Great North Run coming up and I could barely run a mile. Eventually I had to give up my GNR place.

The problem was the menopause. I’d hardly had any symptoms but it was as if my body said “Well, you pretty much got away with it so it’s going out with bang!” Eventually I went to the doctors because of the very heavy bleeding. I was told was extremely anaemic, so much so that they considered giving me a blood transfusion. In the end, I went on a very high dosage of iron tablets. Things started to improve from there.

Running is so important to me now. I love to opportunity to challenge myself and to prove to myself that age isn’t a barrier. I love the feel good factor, although often that doesn’t kick in until the run is over! I also really enjoy the camaraderie. I’ve run a lot on my own but it’s much easier with other people. I started to run more sociably with parkrun and now lead a running group.

unnamed (2)At my age, it’s easy to focus on the negative changes in your body, especially when you’re faced with the menopause. Also, I love cake with a passion and going out to glamorous cocktail bars in London is a favourite non-running pastime.  I know that if I didn’t indulge macaroons and martinis I could have a more perfect body, but I’d prefer to enjoy life. I know I’m strong and fit. I know what my body can do in terms of running. That’s a good feeling.

Swapping my Bluewater lunchtime shopping trips for the gym all those years ago really changed my life for the better. I became a trainer and run leader because I want to share that feel good factor with other people. If you feel you want to run, don’t let worries put you off because you will end up fitter, with stronger bones, more balanced hormones and better heart health. And who could argue with that?


Want to start running? Here are my tips.

  • Don’t expect too much at first. Start with a walk/run routine (lamp-post to lamp-post often works) and build from there.
  • Invest in the necessities; training bra and running shoes. Personally I think having a gait analysis done to ensure you get the right shoes, is vital (most sports shops will do them for you)
  • Cross train to avoid injury. Swim, do yoga, work out in the gym. It’s all important to keep your body free from injury.
  • Find a great race organisation that you enjoy and can be part of, whether it’s a local running group or the supportive atmosphere of parkrun UK. I ran my third marathon as part of the Saxon, Viking and Norman Runs. This organisation has the most entertaining runs (The Cakeathon? The Eyeore expedition? The Gothic challenge?) that are suitable for all running levels (you can run as many laps as you want within a time limit) and very inventive and beautiful medals, plus goody bags filled with genuine goodies.
  • And on the subject of goodies, one of the benefits of running is that I can indulge in my favourite treats of cake and cocktails. I believe in one treat a day, whether it’s edible or a bubble bath or massage. Whatever works for you but deprivation is no good in the long run.
  • And to balance the indulgence get a little spiritual kick out of your run too. One of my favourite books is Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham. You may not be able to achieve the author’s nirvana (he’s a Buddhist monk) but it will help you approach your run in a different, calmer way.


And finally ….

The Camber Crab; a runner’s cocktail special.

This cocktail was the result of long dark night down at Camber Sands with Lexi. I think it’s purely an accident that it turned out so well! It has lots of vitamin c in it so it must be at least a little bit healthy….

  •  2 parts freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 part white rum
  • 1 part triple sec
  • A generous dash of fresh lime juice

Pour each ingredient into a cocktail shaker that is filled with ice, shake vigorously and then pour into cool glasses. Enjoy!


Hilary’s occasional blog is Ramblings of a Menopausal Runner and her Facebook page can be found here Hilary Jones Personal Training