“But aren’t you worried about your knees?”

“When you’re young, you don’t really appreciate how what you’re doing will affect you later in life; you just do what you want, and to hell with the consequences.” – My dad.

“Time to bleed, time to breed.” – Also my dad, included for balance, because even though my father is a very smart man, he is not just a font of wisdom.

Inherited: awkward smile

Inherited: awkward smile and paleness

 Earlier this year, I lost a toenail for the second time in my life. It happened without incident – I was sitting on the sofa with my feet up on the coffee table in my living room, happened to glance at my feet, and noticed that there was ‘too much light’ coming from behind one of my toenails. Sure enough, it was hanging on by a thin ribbon of hardened skin, like a creaky old door on one hinge, and I plucked it off painlessly, much to my boyfriend’s disgust (despite the fact that he likes to make neat piles of his toenail clippings all around my apartment, so now you know that).

I looked at my mangled feet, covered in callouses, blisters, and black toenails, and realised that I used to do things like paint my nails, wear moisturiser with socks in bed, and generally make an effort to keep them in a state fit for public consumption. In fact, the first time I had a toenail fall off was a mere 8 days after I’d had a deluxe pedicure, and the little toenail still had a glossy coating of teal polish as I held it in my hand, examining it like some rare gem.

Unfortunately, running is not always kind to feet. Or knees, if I were to listen to my dad’s constant warnings about the health of my poor joints.

I am regularly reminded of the consequences of ‘not looking after your body’ by my father. He used to be an avid rugby player, and there are in existence countless 35mm film slides packed away somewhere with a projector capable of illuminating my dad, clutching a rugby ball and determinedly ploughing through burly men to score a try, onto my parents’ kitchen wall in Houston.

Ever since I stopped being a rippling tower of lard and started running, I have had my dad tell me that I need to be careful of all the impact activities I do, because I’ll live to regret them later in like. Or, perhaps more accurately, my joints will. Having broached the topic of a second hip replacement recently, he may know what he’s talking about. Despite his warnings, I continue to run because it’s something I really enjoy taking part in. And despite me brushing off his advice, he continues to try and be a knight in shining armour for my knees.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

I was recently speaking to my dad on the phone when the topic came up – again. We got to talking about conflicting advice (my doctor is in the ‘use it or lose it’ camp that I tend to subscribe to), and eventually I asked him a question.

“If you knew that you’d have to have both of your hips replaced at your age, would you have stopped playing rugby and listened to the same advice you’re giving me?”

The sigh on the other end of the line, my friends, is what victory sounds like.

“No, Rachel, I would not have.”


I am my father’s daughter, and to his credit, I don’t think he’s mentioned my crunchy knees or my future as a cripple since that conversation.  But this is probably because despite the fact that my knees sounds like Rice Krispies being crushed when I come out of a squat, he knows I have no intention of stopping, and nothing he can say – whether it has merit or not – will change my mind.
Now, I’m not saying running does necessarily destroy your joints.  I’m sure there is some wear and tear going on when you are a distance runner, but if you gradually increase the load, I believe your body adapts to that.  Even though my knees sound g-r-o-s-s sometimes, they have done since I was about 20, and I don’t feel any pain, so it’s really not an issue for me, or my doctor (which is reassuring).
What I am saying is that whether running trashes your knees or not, it’s something that brings me joy and allows me to connect with so many people.  And without trying to sound like some twee, pseudo-deep pop song, what’s the point of going through the only shot you have at life holding back when you could be diagnosed with incurable cancer tomorrow, get hit by a bus, or have a cargo plane transporting circus animals accidentally drop its load over you, causing death by elephant crushing?  Am I right?