Nina Kuypers on why she ran an ultramarathon for Wellbeing of Women
Founder of Black Women in Menopause Nina Kuypers tells us why the representation of black women in menopause narratives is so important and how she coped with cramps, blisters and a twisted ankle during her ultramarathon
I’m Nina and the founder of Black Women in Menopause. You would be forgiven for thinking that the menopause does not affect Black women, because Black women and people of colour have been invisible in the menopause space.
I started my menopause journey at 43 after I had visited the GP for a blood test for a different issue. I felt as though I had immediately failed because I didn’t ask, “What does being perimenopausal mean?” I always thought I had a good understanding of medical matters, and I’d even had a brief conversation with my mum about menopause, but it wasn’t something that had occupied my thoughts.
After doing some research, the extreme fatigue, night sweats, strange body odour, hyperpigmentation, tin man joints and headaches I had been managing made sense. Looking back, I hadn’t had a period for a few months. They had gone haywire, from light to heavy and late to early. I am now 49, post-menopausal, and have been for four years.
I wish I had known more about menopause before starting my journey, but I want to make it clear that it’s never too late to educate yourself about the menopause.
Why did you do an ultramarathon?
Why not? I don’t want to be labelled a menopausal woman – I want to show that I have multiple sides to my identity, and an ultramarathon runner is just one of them! My decision had been based on a combination of personal decisions: I love being around nature and I wanted the mental challenge of putting one foot in front of the other, away from technology, to be left with my own thoughts.
That's amazing! How did you find it?
Exhausting! It was a mental and physical battle – I developed cramp an hour into the ultramarathon, got my first running blister, a distended abdomen and I twisted my ankle. There were points I wanted to give up, but knowing that I was raising funds for women’s health kept me going.
I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and not fixate on time. Just like menopause, the journey isn’t always easy. I’m thrilled that I finished second in my age group, with a time of 7 hours and 14 minutes. But there’s no putting my feet up now, as I have a very active 10-year-old to look after!
Why did you choose to run for Wellbeing of Women?
I have been a supporter of the charity for some time and its work on ending menopause stigma in the workplace through the Menopause Workplace Pledge has been vital. Wellbeing of Women has helped bring conversations about menopause into the open and I’m so pleased to be fundraising for them.
Why did you set up Black Women in Menopause?
I set up the group to create a safe space for Black women to share their experiences and reach out for information and support. I felt that Black women were not being included in discussions about menopause, and they were particularly under-represented in UK mainstream media. We need to change how the menopause is being represented, as so many groups are currently excluded from the discussion. I want to make people aware of the diversity of menopause experiences in different ethnic groups.
Conversations around the menopause tend to be negative and it is crucial that we change this. It is important that we are prepared for the changes our bodies will go through –
most women will go through menopause, as will some trans men, non-binary and intersex people. Menopause health inequalities need to be explored.
I also don’t want women to think “that’s it” when they begin to go through perimenopause and menopause. Often it can just be the start – I never thought I would take on an ultramarathon!
How is Black Women in Menopause helping women?
We hold free menopause events with Black clinicians and experts, with the aim of creating a community. We want to help dismantle menopause stigma so that all women feel included in the conversation. Sharing every experience is important – for educating others and helping those who are going through menopause to feel supported.