This is a bit long, but somehow being a mother runner in her 40s is not always an easy story to tell. At least there are pictures. And I should say upfront that this is not a tale of woe, even if there are a few screws in my hip now:)
In my teens I ran track. I ran hurdles and sprints up to 800 meters. 800 meters is two times around a track. That race and the 300 meter hurdles seemed like the hardest thing I would ever do running-wise. I never attempted a jog longer than one mile based on my own assumption that I could not run that far.
In my twenties, I did a gym workout here and there. There was a 5 am boot camp class at the Y, some occasional Jazzercise drop-ins, Buns of Steel, yoga off and on. I walked my dog but I don’t recall ever running with her.
In my thirties, I was a working mom. Getting pregnant was a struggle. I was lucky that once pregnant, those little kiddos held on, even though there were some threats of bed rest with the first two. I ate what I craved and didn’t engage in strenuous exercise (or any exercise at all). With #1, I gained over 50 pounds, and close to that with the next two. Luckily it didn’t all stick around, but enough so that I was looking for some kind of exercise after #2. It started with Couch to 5k when #2 was little.
Then, shortly after #3 was born, I found Another Mother Runner. I happened upon their first book, Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving–and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity at the public library.
With the inspiration and reassurance from AMR that yes, I have the time to run; and the tips on running form learned from Chi Running, I finally got into a running routine and made it past the 5k distance. I ran a ten mile and a half marathon.
My 40th birthday year was fast approaching. As the days of 2014 wound down, I sat with my husband and kids to do our year in review and set our goals for the coming year, an annual family tradition. I figured out that my birthday was just slightly over 100 days into the New Year. I would run every day of the year until I turned 40. With the exception of one day*, I ran every day from January 1 – April 11 (the first 101 days of the year). Somewhere along the way, my husband agreed to join me in our local ten miler, which had been my very first race. Then, as my distances got longer, I decided to cap off my birthday weekend by running a half marathon on the Outer Banks, near our beloved house in Duck. We ran the ten miler Saturday morning (which my husband HATED**), had some friends join us at the house for a bit, and then hit the road for the 4 hour drive to the beach. I got up the next morning and ran my first sub 2 hour half marathon. After, I sat on the beach with my toes in the sand, cold beer in hand, and watched my kids frolic in the sand. It was the best weekend of my life.
After running 23 miles in two days, I figured I could handle a full marathon. I signed up for a Train Like a Mother marathon training plan and was pretty successfully getting my training runs in for a fall marathon – Rock n Roll Savannah, which was scheduled for Veterans Day weekend, a date I could ensure would be free and in a location that was just a drive away. One weekend in July, I set out early on a Saturday morning for a 15 mile run. It was the longest run to date but I had been following the training plan, so it had been a gradual build on the mileage. I had had some knee and hip pain previously but in the last few miles, the pain was so bad that I limped home. Over the next few days, I stretched and rested, but when I set out for my Monday morning run, there was pain and so I stopped after about a mile. Over the next month, I tried sports massage, a chiropractor and physical therapy. Physical therapy helped but I could not get rid of the limp. There were many theories, but everyone said, it can’t be a fracture, you would not even be able to walk.
Over a month later, I had just returned from a 40th birthday celebration weekend with my two besties in Austin. We had walked all over Austin. On the advice of the PT, who was very puzzled about my lack of recovery, I went to see a general practitioner for an X-ray. I had only seen an OB/GYN since moving to North Carolina, so this entailed finding a general practitioner who could get me in. The physician was in a boot herself, and super kind, but she also felt that it couldn’t possibly be a fracture. We did an X-ray in the office and I went on my way.
The North Carolina legislative session had dragged on into September but we finally seemed to be nearing the end. That of course meant long days and an unpredictable schedule for me, as a lobbyist. Shortly after leaving the doctor’s office, I got a call that the X-ray showed a fracture in the femoral neck of my left hip. I needed to go to the hospital immediately. I called the office back immediately but couldn’t get the doctor directly as it was after hours. I had been walking around for over a month, so going to the Emergency Room seemed silly. The legislature was debating a bill that was important to several of my clients that evening, so, at my husband’s urging, I agreed to go to the Orthopedic Urgent Care at Duke with my iPad and headphones so I could listen to the audio of the debate and take notes. The orthopedist came in the exam room after reviewing the x-ray and told me that I would have to have surgery right away. My immediate response was, “I don’t have time.” (I said it in a nice way.)
This poor woman whom I had never met seemed pretty shocked. I guess most patients don’t respond that way. Maybe she hadn’t seen too many working mother runners before? I explained that I had already been walking around on it for quite some time, it was a busy time at work, and surely we could consider measures short of surgery? She explained that it was especially problematic that I had been walking around on it for over a month. The dislocation could cause damage to the blood vessels and in turn cause necrosis of the bone (i.e., bone death). Gross. OK, I agreed, but can we schedule the surgery, instead of just sending me to the ER . . .
Lucky for me, a surgeon could fit me in to his schedule the next day, but I would have to be admitted to the hospital that night. They insisted that I leave the urgent care on crutches and pleaded with me to go straight to the ER. (I did go to the ER but stopped at home first to get a bag and kiss the kiddos. I mean, honestly.) While in the car, the doctor whom I had seen earlier in the day, and never met before, called to make sure I understood the severity of the situation and that I was indeed heading to the hospital. Sheesh, I got it! Once I arrived at the hospital, they admitted me to the floor with all of the other hip fracture patients. I was the only patient under 70. I could hear the nurses whispering in the hall, “She walked in here. I know, it’s crazy.”*** Thanks guys. Just in case there was any doubt that the wheels fall off after 40.
The surgery was successful and they sent me on my way with 3 screws in my hip. Obviously, I did not run the marathon in Savannah – my only comfort that the race was called for heat that year so I would not have finished anyway. Shortly after, the decision was made to move to Portland, and chaos ensued for the next several months. OK, so maybe chaos ensued for the next year.
Then I quit my job, finally figured out Long Run Fridays, and ran my own personal marathon. I won’t lie, it was tough to get past that 15 mile mark. I worried with each run that my bones would further crumble. But I hit that 26.2 and 2018 goals include a return to the Flying Pirate half marathon in the Outer Banks and the Chicago marathon in the fall. I am thankful for every mile.
STAY TUNED . . . for another post on how this all ties in to the exciting news that I am going to be a BAMRbassador! First, I have to try and drag my kids to the nearby track so I can get a run in.
*We got a ridiculous amount of snow during the 100 days. I grew up in Michigan so the snow itself did not intimidate me, even though North Carolina has zero capacity to clear sidewalks and roads after a major snow. However, my husband, who has an amazing knack for being out of town during all major weather events, was out of town. He may have even been in Hawaii, although I may be conflating events here. I spent a few days running up and down a path in our neighborhood while the kids played in the snow next to the path. But I still missed one day.
**He actually put his headphones in at one point so he wouldn’t have to hear my chatter. Apparently not everyone likes a chatty runner!
***If there is any moral to this story, it’s that pain is an imperfect measure of health. I had never broken anything before, so there was really no way to know that I have a freakishly high pain tolerance. Sure, two kids arrived (very) shortly after arriving at the hospital without pain meds, but who would have thought that would translate to not feeling a bone fracture? My hunch is that this a bigger issue for women than men. (I mean, let’s be real, why in the world were women ever referred to as the “weaker” sex?)