Because of Running: Part Two
Part two in a series on how running has made an impact on my life.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I rediscovered running in January 2003 and ran my first (and technically, only) half marathon in October of that same year. I experienced a few pings and pangs, plus a niggle here or there but nothing that stopped me from pushing forward towards my first marathon the following October. During training, I managed to irritate my iliotibial band (ITB) which led to the donning of a knee brace for my first distance event (no, it didn’t really help to wear one). Shortly after the race, I needed to get a cortisone shot into my toe to ease the pain from overuse. Somehow, I got lucky and the injuries dissipated. However, by the time marathon #2 was completed in October of 2005, the ITB on the opposite leg flared up and wasn’t letting up.
I knew my luck could only carry me so far, so I sought medical advice and was referred to physical therapy to rehab my ITB. At some point during my seven weeks of rehab, I remarked to my therapist that I thought he had a pretty cool job. Not like it was the first time I had been exposed to PT – having been a patient years before for a foot surgery and having had college roommates and friends who were studying physical therapy. But this was the first time that I was really paying attention.
My therapist was able to work with me to help me get back to running, back to the activity that defines me as a person and makes me feel ‘whole.’ He taught me which muscles to stretch, how to properly stretch them and even explained why it was important. He stretched the muscles for me; he worked out the adhesions that had formed in the ITB, relieving the pain and freeing it up so it could move the way it was intended to move. He showed me how to strengthen my leg muscles, and then pushed me harder than I could ever have pushed myself.
I got back on the roads, stronger than ever and was able to lay the foundation that eventually led to my Boston Qualifying time, and ultimately, the Boston Marathon. I was able to realize that dream because someone knew how to get me past the basic level of ‘functioning’ and took the time to make sure my rehab was successful.
I knew that I wanted that job – it was a perfect fit. I also knew that I didn’t have the time or money to get through a traditional PT program (which is now at least a 5-year, full-time program). But Running had a plan in mind for me already. When I told my therapist how cool his job was, he explained to me that he wasn’t a PT, but rather a PTA, a physical therapist assistant. The 2-year, part-time program sounded much more reasonable and achievable. My job scope will have some limitations as compared to being a PT, but I will have the ability to treat patients. That’s what matters most to me – being able to treat patients, improve their functioning and return them to the activities that matter most to them. In September, I start my final semester, doing two ‘clinical affiliations’ full-time, until the end of December. Then, I start the next leg of the journey and see where it takes me.
Because of running, I will be proud to tell people what I do for a living.