Putting the physical hardship into perspective

The night before the Marathon.  Hours away from doing my first Boston.  It is an exciting and nerve-wracking time all at once.  I probably should already be in bed, but an inevitable restlessness has kicked in.

I have an additional source of nervousness, on top of the usual ones.  A few weeks ago, I tore the muscle in my right calf, making it somewhat painful to even simply walk or to go up and down stairs … forget about running 26.2 miles.  I had to skip my last long training run, and had to force an earlier tapering to my running routine as my leg simply could not take the pain.

I visited my primary care physician, who referred me to a sports medicine specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and to a physical therapist at Joint Ventures.  All three them had the same thought written all over there faces: You really should drop out of the race, let your body heal, and try again next year.  But none of them actually told me to do that.  They all seemed to understand that my heart was set on trying to complete the race; that I had put in too much training and come too far to stop now; and that I was caught in the spirit of this historic event.  So instead they focused on helping me deal with my situation to give me the best possible chance of getting to the finish line … prescribing a regimen of rest, strength exercises, elliptical workouts, stretching, ibuprofen, icing, etc.  I thought that was pretty cool.  It was another small indication of how everyone seems to appreciate there is something special about the Boston Marathon.

Of course, I now am that much more impressed with — and humbled by — older athletes who are still running the Boston Marathon year after year well into their 70s and 80s.  Being injured in this way also helped me gain a better appreciation for the effort and strength that people with physical impediments — whether as a result of age or an underlying illness or disease — have to bring to bear to everyday activities that most of us take for granted.  As the physical therapist said to me: “You only get one body … make the most of it, but also take good care of it.”

More importantly, I also now have a whole new level of respect for Nick, my “Patient Partner” for whom I am running this Marathon.   Nick inherited a rare genetic disorder called MPS I disease.  It is a horrible and debilitating condition that impacts many different parts of his body.  Symptoms can include joint stiffness, reduced breathing capacity, heart problems, visual impairment, pain, neurological symptoms …. the list goes on (you can learn more from www.mpssociety.org or www.MPSIdisease.com).  But none of that slowed Nick down one bit.  He has a tough spirit that makes up for any physical limitations.  He does not take “no” for an answer.  With the help of therapy provided by Genzyme, he joined the wrestling team at his high school in Providence, and then eventually joined the football team!  Nobody … not his family, not his many physicians … could have predicted that Nick would successfully tackle such physical challenges.  He did not allow his body to tell him “no” …. he continued to set high goals for himself, and then just went out and achieved them.  Nick epitomizes the kind of hope that the National Organization for Rare Disorders stands for.

So Nick is my inspiration for this Boston Marathon … even more so now than when I first started training.  I’ll have a picture of him pinned to my back during the run.  That little tear in my calf seems puny compared to what he has had to contend with.  I don’t know for sure if I will be able to finish … but I owe it to myself, my supporters, my running team, and to Nick to at least give it my best effort.

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Archive of posts from Marathon runners dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of people with serious disease.