Bombings at the Boston Marathon

Big changes in just a few hours.

I love the Boston Marathon.  Since I started running a few years ago, I’ve watched the race every year as some of the most inspiring athletes in the world take on the course from Hopkinton to Boston.  This year was no different. Monday morning was spent watching the elites take the course, then closely followed by hammering away at my refresh button while I virtually “watched” a number of friends run the course.

And another.

Right after I saw a couple of my fastest friends finish up, I had to leave the office for a few hours to head to a meeting.  When I returned to the office late Monday afternoon, a colleague immediately asked if I’d heard.

“Did I hear what?”

“There’s been a bombing at the finish line of the marathon.”

My day immediately turned from looking up finish times to finding out if my friends and their families were all spared.  Thankfully, no one I know was injured in the blasts, despite a few friends being very close.  At the same time, I started getting phone calls, tweets and Facebook posts from friends and family concerned that I might have been there.  Even a tiny bit of humor mixed in with concern came from brother-in-law.

“I am glad you are too slow for the Boston Marathon!”

The aftermath of these bombings confirmed exactly what I’ve always thought about terrorists.

Terrorists, whether we’re talking about Al-Qaeda or Timothy McVey, fundamentally misunderstand concepts most human beings get intuitively.

A symbol is not the same thing as the concept it represents.

If you melt down a wedding ring, it does not mean the marriage is over.  If you burn a bible, faith and religion carry on. If you bomb a government building, the government survives.  Even if you drive a plane into a symbol of freedom and capitalism, liberty and financial freedom live on.

Setting bombs off at the worldwide symbol of endurance, perseverance and the height of athletic competition will not stop runners.  It will not stop the families of runners from supporting them through months of training.  It will not stop a young boy from greeting his mom or dad after a race with “I’m so proud of you.”

You, who attack symbols, will never win.  Endurance will not stop.  Wanting something greater for yourself will not stop. Hard work will not stop.  Not now, not ever.  

Boston Marathon

If, after a lot of hard work, I get the chance to run Boston, I will be there in a heartbeat.

At long last, a solid week

It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent, solid week of running.  Since the Houston Marathon in January, I’ve been spending too much time searching around for medical advice, then getting differing views on whether or not I should be running.  It’s really taken a toll on my early spring.  I’ve got one more opinion to get (a neurosurgeon on May 7), then I can really get a plan in place, so until then, I’ll take the 26 miles I’ve run this week and put them in the bank.

Since I’m supposed to keep my pace down, I’ve decided to use the time to focus on my running form a bit more.  At the moment, I’m working on two things:

  1. Getting my cadence up
  2. Keeping my shoulders and neck nice and relaxed

I plan to put in some hard work on core strength as well.  Hopefully the investments I’m putting in now while I can’t run with intensity will pay off down the road if I can get back to serious training.

Some tentative good news

After getting a downright depressing course of action from the orthopaedic doctor I had been seeing for my hip, I was referred to the spine specialist in the same sports medicine practice.  And there, I got some tentatively good news.

The orthopaedic spine guy agreed with his colleague’s diagnosis, but not with the ‘what to do.’  For the record, here’s the formal diagnosis in all of its hypermedical detail. This time I took notes:

Grade I-II spondylolisthesis at L5/S1

Bilateral foraminal stenosis at L4/L5

Bilateral severe foraminal stenosis at L5/S1

They believe the damage was caused by chronic pars defects which probably happened in my teen years.  This is pretty typical for athletes who participate in activities that require repeated, quick extension of the back.  Think of a defensive lineman in football who, as soon as the ball is snapped, immediately stands up.  Or better yet, think of a kid of who loved to play baseball and from the time he was eight years old until he graduated high school played 95% of his innings as a catcher.  That was me:  Stand up.  Crouch.  Stand up.  Crouch.  Rinse and repeat several bajillion times.

The tentative good news is that the spine specialist’s advice was to avoid surgery for the time being and that I could keep running, except slow down — the pain only really comes on strong when I run at higher paces.  He told me that if I have surgery now, it’ll guarantee that I’ll never run again.  And even if I don’t run, but I do stay active, I’ll just be back for additional surgeries later.  Fusing the disks will stabilize that area, but any force put on the back would just be transferred to the disks above and then they’d begin to deteriorate.  Also, he said that surgery today for someone at my fitness level would actually result in a tougher recovery than the average bear since much of the recovery involves repairing the muscle they’d need to cut to do the surgery.  When asked if surgery would be riskier sometime down the line (if necessary), and he said no, not in my case.  His explanation was that the typical increase in risk as people age is usually due to people’s poor health unrelated to the surgery, like obesity, high blood pressure, smoking …  none of which I have, thankfully.  My wife asked him if I’m putting myself at risk for anything catastrophic by continuing to run and he assured us that I am not.

So, for time being, I’m getting back to running a bit while I wait to get a second opinion from a neurosurgeon.  That should happen sometime in the next couple of weeks.  While I do hope that I get the same advice, I want to make sure I have all of the best thinking before I start training in earnest.

In the meant time I’m keeping the pace nice and leisurely.

I cheated on my doctor

Please don’t tell him, but after being told not to run at my last orthopedic appointment, I just couldn’t follow the advice.  I held out for a while, but when we went on vacation for a week, I just couldn’t not run.  I left Cincinnati on a grey, dreary, snowy morning and landed in the brilliant sunshine of The Bahamas.  How can I not run in that?  I did keep them short, and I also kept them very, very slow. I know I may have to face the possibility of stopping altogether, but until that is the final word on my running future, I know I am a better me when I do get to run, and I didn’t want to be a bad me while on vacation.  I head to the spine surgeon on Wednesday to get more insight as to what’s next.  Until, then, a few runs from Paradise (Island).