Now's New Editor - and exercise-phobe - on why she's running a half marathon

Now’s News Editor Jessica Boulton and the Now team are running the Royal Parks Half Marathon for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. A plus-size exercisephobe, here Jess reveals how even the world’s hottest men wouldn’t have got her moving when she was struck with a mystery illness..

I don’t think there’s one of my friends that ever thought they would see they day I would sign myself up for a half marathon.

I am – as all my friends know – far more likely to feel the lure of the pub after work then the call of the treadmill.

But there’s a small circle of friends from my time at my first ever job, a reporter for Hull Daily Mail, that will be even more amazed at this weird and crazy turnabout of events.

Not because I was the biggest wine drinker in the office, but because for a year while I was there I saw firsthand what it was like to suffer from arthritis – when I spent a year barely able to walk.

Few people now even know this happened as I rarely speak about it.

But at the age of 23 I was struck down by what doctors later believed was a type of viral arthritis. This is nothing like as painful or as serious as rheumatoid arthritis for which the Now team is raising money, but it was enough to give me some small understanding of what RA sufferers must be going through.

It started when out of nowhere little movements became intensely painful. Straightening my fingers was nearly impossible, my toes felt like someone was standing on them constantly and I could barely bring myself to bend my knees. I’d be brought to tears trying to put shoes on.

A few weeks later my shoulders and my neck started to go. I remember being in a changing room stuck, because having managed to try a new top on, I couldn’t physically lift my arms up to get it off. It ended with me having to call someone in to help.

It became the norm that I needed two hands to open a car door and often needed my boyfriend to shut it for me, because I simply couldn’t grip or bend my hands. Some days he even had to pull me crying out of bed because my whole body was too painful to move on its own.

To anyone looking at me, I didn’t look ill. For months the doctors just told me to drink more water and take more exercise. They finally sent me for some blood tests, but no one really came back with an answer other than it seeming to be some type of viral arthritis, for which all they could do was give me painkillers and anti-inflammatories. For the difference they made, they might as well have been Smarties.

In the meantime, with no real diagnosis, I had to continue work as normal. I remember standing on a doorstep knocking on someone’s door one day when I got a bad attack. I was only 200 metres from my parked car, but there was no way I could stand the pain of walking back. In the end I had to phone the photographer to come and help me. Not exactly the right image for a journalist turning up to interview someone.

My ordeal lasted a good year, and only a few of my close friends ever understood what pain I was going through. Then as fast as it came, it disappeared. I still have no idea what caused it, if it will come back, if it’s connected to my mum’s RA which can be hereditary…

The only reminders I have are a couple of deformed fingers and a swollen knee.

The suffering I went through is a tiny tiny fraction of that of RA sufferers. They go through much more pain with many more symptoms. Theirs is a vicious autoimmune disease that’s chronic and can’t be cured. I am not for a second trying to say I know what they have to endure.

But having gone through what I did, what it has done is make it all the more important to me to give it my all on Sunday. I’ve put all that behind me, but I have to help those who aren’t as lucky as I am.

Jess and the Now team are running the Royal Parks Half marathon on 7 October on behalf of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, www.nras.org.uk

To support us, Tweet your favourite running song to @nowmag or donate at www.justgiving.com/now-magazine

Thanks to Garment Printing, www.garmentprinting.co.uk