All systems go


A little over a year ago, when I finished the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, I remember going through a bunch of emotions. Pride for having accomplished what I set out to do: run a sub 3:30 marathon, joy for having my family there with me, exhaustion from the effort, and yes, relief for being done.

Today I’m going through a bunch of emotions as well, but for a very different reason.  Today Michelle and I visited with a top neurosurgeon to get his input on what I should or shouldn’t do about my recently discovered spine problem.  After hearing different advice from different doctors along the way, it felt wonderful to finally feel like I was getting clear direction.

The conversation started with agreement with the previous doctors regarding both the diagnosis (spondylolisthesis) and the cause (pars defects from micro fractures when I was but a lad).

He disagreed with the orthopedic spine doctor who said that if I did have the surgery that I’d never run again. His clinic has as many patients who go back to running and are fine as they do patients who end up needing to come back for additional surgeries. Basically, every year after the surgery, if you stay active, the percentages go up by 4-5% that additional surgery will be needed. The recommendation to avoid surgery for now was partly based on not wanting to get that particular clock ticking.

We asked if I’d be putting myself at higher risk for something catastrophic to happen if I continue running (even running hard) and he said absolutely not. There’s nothing in the literature or in his experience that indicates that at all. He said I’m basically just going to slowly get worse, whether I run or not.  Running hard may exacerbate the pain, but it won’t lead to paralysis or anything else horrible.

Eventually I’m going to need to get this fused, but doing it now before it affects my everyday life would be a mistake. They have no way of predicting when I’ll get to that point, but he said it could be as many as twenty years or as few as a couple.

His suggestion was that we revisit this once a year to see how things are going. Since I had both an X-ray and an MRI, they now have a baseline and will be able to see if things are changing and we can decide what, if anything, we’re going to do.

In the mean time, as long as I can live with the pain, I don’t have any restrictions on what I’m allowed to do. So I’ve decided to take up BASE jumping and on weekends I’ll be wrestling in the WWF.


Actually, after talking with Michele about it, I’ve decided to pick up where I left off and work toward a Boston qualification time.  I don’t know yet whether I’ll still aim at trying to get in to the 2014 race or not, but I’m not going to give up on the dream of running Boston.  If I get to the peak of training and the pain becomes unbearable, I’ll simply back off and accept what I can do.

So today’s emotions are:

  • Relief:  I can continue running and continue to pursue the Boston dream.
  • Excitement and fear:  I get to go back to training, which is great, but I’m a little afraid I’ve lost a step or two.
  • Gratitude: that I have a wife who sticks by me through all of the ups and downs of this life-long saga.

2 thoughts on “All systems go

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