Sunday, March 24, 2013

I can fix it myself!

Ever meet one of those people who refuses to hire a plumber, electrician or other repairperson because they can fix it themselves? You know the type, they have the partially fixed lawn mower in the garage for the last two years, or the wires hanging out of the ceiling in guestroom where that fan and light were going to be installed. My wife would say it’s a guy thing, something equivalent to never asking for directions or yelling at the TV during a sporting event. Making it a "guy thing" means she can insinuate it means me without actually accusing me directly.

She may have a point. I recently decided to fix a burner on our cook top. Online it was described as a 20 min. job and needs a $30 part. Several trips to the parts store, several hours of finagling and $100 later I managed to fix the burner but took out the burner light in the process. Pam would call it a comedy of errors, I call it a learning experience.

But what does this have to do with running? To some degree it’s that same "I can fix it myself" mentality that carries over into running injuries. I just don’t find it rewarding to run off to a doctor every time I get a cold, some achy joint or muscle, or flu symptoms (another guy thing?). I figure I can fix it myself or worst case it will degrade to something worst like pneumonia or torn tendon and then I can justify I need a professional to help. Part of this is learned behavior. I get injured running, I go to the doctor, they ask me how it did it, I tell them, and they tell me to stop running. Like that is going to happen.

But there are times when you do need to turn to a professional. I was on a run with my daughter one day and I rolled my ankle on a curb. I jump back up and start limping around saying "It’s OK, I’ll just walk it off" (another guy thing?). Within a minute I had a muffin top forming over the top of my shoe. OK, so I can’t walk it off, but if I just ice it the swelling will go down and it will be OK. Next day when the foot turned black (not black and blue…black) it seemed appropriate to get it checked. Eight weeks later I got off the crutches and out of the cast.

This year I reached another one of those points. Last year I ran 3 marathons in less than 12 months without any serious injuries. But in the fall I came up lame with a mysterious back of the knee/hamstring problem. Even resting it for a couple of months didn’t seem to make a difference. So I found it completely rational to go seek professional help. I went online. But despite the sage advice of other runners nothing I seemed to do could heal the injury. I finally broke down and went to a doctor.

Apparently I’m not alone. A recent study found that 50% of runners get sidelined each year due to injuries. The aging population of runners and accumulated injuries over the years have a lot to do with that. I’d say I’m guilty on both counts. Some of these injuries come with classy names like, Dead Butt Syndrome, Nippi Erectie Rubatosis, Shin Splints, Blackened Toenails, Runner’s Knee, and Snapping Hip. But most of these injuries are fairly minor and with some early advice/research and a bit of TLC they can be handled by the runner. One thing running does teach you is to listen to your body. Pam would say listening isn’t my strong suit but relative to running I think I’m getting better at it.

We haven’t fixed my problem but between the doctor and I we managed to get me to where I can run, although very slow and with limited mobility. It looks like it will be another one of those years where we won’t know until the second half whether the legs will hold up or not. But of course it they don’t, I can always try to fix it myself.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Inspiration from ????

During the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, track star Derek Redmond was favored to medal in the 400 Meter sprint. Half way through the race he pulled up lame with a hamstring tear (very painful, I can attest to that). The story of what happened next has been ranked as No. 3 in a list of the 50 most stunning Olympic moments. You can watch the video here .

Why is it that a couple of years after a major sporting event most of us have trouble remembering who won (unless of course it it’s your favorite team), yet events like Derek’s stick in our minds. Granted, some of us have reached the age where remembering our own names may be difficult at times, but there does seem to be more of an emotional attachment to the inspirational events in our lives. Without looking I couldn’t remember who won the Boston Marathon 5 years ago even though I ran it. But I can tell you in great detail about the first time I ran into Dick Hoyt pushing his son Rick up heartbreak hill in a wheelchair. I was setting a pretty serious pace when I came up along side them and as I wished him well he turned and smiled (no small feat while pushing his 20 year old son up a killer hill). I still get a lump in my throat when I think about it, and every year since when I have been fortunate enough to bump into them at races. Last year Dick and Rick did it again at Boston for the 30th time.

I saw a report the other night on a woman (Stephanie Decker) who had lost both her legs in a tornado. She was covering up her children protecting them from the house that was coming apart around them. She has artificial limbs now and has learned how to walk with them. Amazingly, she is not bitter at all, expressing her joy at what she has, not her anger at what she lost. Her next goal is to run a marathon.

On April 15th, 20+ thousand runners will descend on Boston for the 117th running of THE Marathon. Among them will be thousands of runners running to raise money for their charity of choice. Each has their own story on how they got there and what inspires them to train for such a grueling event. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing some of those stories over the years. Some make my heart ache, others make it soar but in all cases I take away a memory and a little bit of inspiration that I can use when the going gets tough. It’s no secret that the hard work is not the day of the race (unless of course you count last year with the 90 degree weather), the hard part is the months of training. That’s when you need the motivation to get out of bed early to slog through the snow, or skip that Friday night out with friends to be ready for your weekly long run Saturday morning. When you are running for someone else as well as yourself, it makes the choice a bit easier. I had a friend tell me that between training and fund raising it literally consumes all her free time. She said it as a fact, not a complaint, and I know if I asked her if she regretted the decision to run for a charity she would think I was nuts.

Another friend of mine, Susan Hurley, runs an organization called Charity Teams that helps charity runners prepare to run the Boston Marathon, as well as helping them with their fund raising. Many of them are first time marathoners and over the past few years all of them have finished the race. No small feat given the normal dropout rates in Boston. On top of that, the runners she has taken under her wings have raised over $2.7M for their charities. Most of those runners come with their own stories of inspiration but if they need a bit more they don’t have to look far. Susan is not only a source of inspiration but has positively touched numerous lives in the process. By most definitions a true hero.

So why do we love inspirational stories? Hell if I know. Maybe because a little inspiration is like a swift kick in the butt. It’s a call to action to get us moving. Whether we fall down or it propels us forward is up to us. No question on Marathon day a bunch of us will be using it as fuel to keep us going.