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Couch to Dublin Marathon & Arthritis – Joanne’s Story

Taking up Exercise Later in Life

As I approached the age of 50 my children pointed out I was not getting any younger and should think about my health and fitness. Having been a nurse all my working life I knew they were right. Long hours at work, bringing up a family and general pressures of life I had neglected myself when it came to exercise. I had never been a gym bunny but did enjoy swimming and walking, however the challenge I chose was to run a charity 10K in aid of The British Heart Foundation at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire UK. This was to become the venue for future challenges.

I followed an 8-week training programme I completed my first 10k run, that was the start of my journey to fitness. My next challenge was the 32K Connemara Adventure challenge in Ireland where I would be running, cycling, and kayaking, still the toughest challenge I’ve done to date! Each year I would challenge myself to a new adventure. In 2015 I walked my first marathon, The Moonwalk, around the streets of London at night in aid of Breast Cancer Research. In 2016 I took up open water swimming and completed the swim leg as part of a team at Blenheim Triathlon – My claim to fame was Alistair Brownlee (Triathlon world champion) was in the same race albeit a little ahead of me LOL. I loved the experience so much that the following year I completed all 3 disciplines continuously, swimming, cycling and running. This was turned out to be a warmup for Dublin Marathon in October.

What do you do when you retire?

Complete a marathon of course!

I was due to retire from nursing in October 2017 so my lovely husband, Tony, thought it would be a great retirement present to enter me into Dublin Marathon! I knew running the full distance would be challenging so I adopted the Jeff Galloway run / walk method. This proved to be the perfect choice leading me to complete the marathon in under 5.5 hours feeling I could have carried on for another few miles. Not bad for someone who only 4 years before thought a 1-mile walk was a long way!

Training as a Fitness & Nordic Walking Instructor

Continuing with regular training including lots of parkruns and Nordic Walking which I had taken up a couple of years before, I decided to train as a fitness and Nordic walking instructor. My children could not believe that their mother had gone from couch potato to fitness instructor, saying we only meant you to get a bit fitter!

Back to Dublin

2019 was the 40th Anniversary of Dublin marathon so it was inevitable that I would give it another go and started my training programme with the aim to complete it in under 5 hours. Training started well and I was feeling strong but as the miles increased, I was getting increasing pain in my right hip. When I had got up to 10 miles with the pain too much to bear, I decided to pull out of the marathon. I was disappointed not to be taking part but knew I would be causing myself more harm than good.

Tests and Diagnosis

Nordic Walking was great for keeping me active during this time, but I was generally feeling tired and run down. A whole battery of blood tests, scans and x-rays followed and was finally diagnosed with moderately severe arthritis in both hips and lower spine, along with IBS.

My GP suggested trying a low FODMAP diet for the IBS, this I did religiously under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian, who also happened to be my daughter. After less than a week on the elimination part of the diet I felt 100% improved including no joint pain. It was the week of the 2019 Dublin Marathon.

Walking Dublin Marathon

Friends from the UK and Ireland were all taking part in the marathon and I went to the pre-race expo with them to collect their race numbers. I felt so well I collected my number too and found myself on the start line the next morning. My training had consisted of some Nordic walking and swimming. I set off putting one foot in front of the other and walked the 26.2 miles before the cut of time of 7 hours. That is one medal I am immensely proud of. My training had consisted of Nordic walking, swimming, and yoga.

Life after Dublin

After the success of the marathon, I continued to Nordic walk regularly as well as cycling and yoga. I had no joint pain until I started reintroducing dairy products back into my diet. It seemed I would wake up with swollen joints and pain every time I had a cheese feast or drank milk. I eliminated all dairy again my joints improved. This was a positive side effect of my low FODMAP diet but is not the case for everyone, so please seek advise from a Registered Dietitian before taking this approach to your own joint pain.

Living with Arthritis

I am happy to say that my arthritis pain is negligible now. I exercise everyday and include, strength and conditioning exercises, balance and flexibility, aerobic exercises in the form of H.I.T, as well as yoga and Pilates under the direction of a physio. Of course I continue to walk and Nordic walk on a daily basis. I follow a wholefood plant-based diet 80% of the time, but I still eat fish and eggs and have cheese occasionally.

Nordic Walking & Arthritis

Exercise can help you improve your health and fitness without hurting your joints. Nordic walking is a great option to provide a whole body workout while being low impact and reducing load on lower limbs by up to 25%.  Maintaining a healthy body weight is another important part of arthritis management. Nordic walking uses 90% of muscles leading to burning more calories, thus helping with weight loss.  By increasing physical activity, you can make a difference to your joints and overall health. Along with your current treatment programme, regular, moderate exercise offers a whole host of benefits including:

  • Reduces your joint pain and stiffness
  • Strengthens the muscles, ligaments and cartilage around your joints
  • Helps you maintain bone strength and quality
  • Increases your joint range of motion and joint mobility
  • Improves your balance
  • Gives you more strength and energy to get through the day
  • Helps you control your weight
  • Makes it easier to get a good night’s sleep
  • Makes you feel better about yourself and improves your sense of well-being
  • Improves your ability to manage stress
  • Reduces the risk of other chronic conditions
  • Promotes stronger heart and lungs
  • Lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol

Want to know more?

Our classes and walks for people with Arthritis are lead by our instructor, Joanne, who is a retired nurse, with a passion for helping people like you get the best from your exercise programme.

To find out more about what we can offer you call or email Joanne:

TEL: +353 (0) 87 693 6903


Achievements to Date

Selection of Joanne’s Achievements:

2022 – Burren 10K,

2019 – Dublin Marathon, Tongariro Alpine Crossing NZ, Pieta House 60K Cycle

2018 – Purbeck 16 mile Nordic Walking Event

2017 – Dublin Marathon, Blenheim Triathlon, Great South Run, Oxford Half Marathon, Cardiff Half Marathon, Broadway Trail Half Maraton, Macmillan Mighty Hike Marathon, Equinox 24, Cotswold Classic 10 miles, 3 Spires Half Marathon, Dark Peak Trail, St Alban’s Half Marathon, The Grizzly Cub

2016 – Blenheim Triathlon (Swim Leg)

2015 – The Moonwalk Marathon,Dementia Walk, Moonlight Stroll, Otmoor Challenge Half Marathon, Toronto Half Marathon.

2014 – Oxford Half Marathon, Otmoor Challenge Half Marathon, Connemara Adventure Challenge

2013 – First 10K Blenheim

Numerous 5k events including over 80 parkruns

Numerous 10k event