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Jun 11 2014
I Have to Laugh

At myself. I have been clinging to the belief I could opt out of this event for any number of legitimate reasons. But then a 91-year-old woman Harriet Thompson finished a marathon in California a couple weeks ago. The arguments have reduced to none valid… and I am in. But review of chasing the emotional waves is entertaining.

The last week before the marathon is typically the longest week. It can last at least a month. NO scheduled exercise distractions; and it is too late to make adjustments. What is done is done and all that is left is to discover if it is adequate and if unknowns are not too much. I have not dismissed all the contraindications; (training on a treadmill helps reduce impact) so pavement remains as the biggest unknown, both as figurative and literal hurdles.

In 2010-11 I was experiencing numbness and muscle spasms in my legs, hips and back; causal to one or all of these facts:

  • I was teaching 4-7 classes per week and running at least 30+ miles/week 
  • Someone attempted a left turn into my car with me in it
  • Extended driving to Detroit from Manitowoc, WI for elderly parent care
  • The intensity of spasms and pain increased in frequency and duration as:
    • Exercise programs gradually deteriorated
    • Decreased mobility exacerbated both health and movement

March 2012 I had given up most of the teaching and running and went to the doctor. The MRI showed nothing aside from slight rotation and curve in my lumbar spine. Surprising no cause presented, because the pain was so bad it woke me up screaming. I had virtually given up driving because lifting my right foot was excruciating, as well as bumps and turns. My daily function decreased to the status of near invalid. I went to the doctor regularly and am fairly certain I was a nuisance, because the only help I was given was pain medication, and prescriptions were barely helpful. A 2nd MRI ordered in September finally gave insight and a diagnosis. A synovial cyst on the facets between L4 and L5 was putting pressure on nerves. I was referred to surgeons locally, Milwaukee, and Chicago to consult and received virtually the same recommendations.


Recommendations and possible consequences

Spinal surgery:
to remove cyst and fuse spine at L4 L5+, depending on discovery
Risk: Ruptured Disk if I suffered an impact injury

Physical Therapy:
to increase strength and range of motion

Prognosis without surgery or PT:  Increased pain, reduced movement

Guarantee:  NONE, decrease in lumbar mobility, function; pain improvement
With or without surgery: stop running

Decision:  Delay surgery and try Physical Therapy, massage therapy, exercise


With PT I began to have more mobility, less pain and my strength improved. I could push past spasms knowing they were from the pressure on nerves NOT injuries. It is NOT perfect, but I’m mobile and getting stronger. If I neglect exercise for too long, or forget to stretch after exercise, the symptoms return. So far I am avoiding surgery, and impact. From 2012 to now I prove to myself physicality and muscle strength equates to achieving wellness. I may achieve the goal and earn the medal at the HFM Maritime Marathon, but I already grasp the importance of the efforts of the past 2 years with even half of that distance.

The wave of emotions... will subside on race day from start to less than 7 hours 7 minutes and 42 seconds (Harriet Thompson’s time). Whatever I look like, at whatever mile I am running… IF I cross the finish line I will be smiling. Happy Running.

Rem will be blogging about this training journey, thoughts and experiences as she prepares for the HFM Maritime Marathon on June 22.  Watch for her posts about every two weeks.

Learn more about the HFM Maritime Marathon:


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