Running With a Bounce In My Step
“I run because I can. When I get tired I remember those who can’t run, what they give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me.” - Unknown
I lost my leg to cancer in 2001 and I always worked hard to make sure I could do everything the same way that I did before the amputation. I wanted to stay “normal”. That is why I started running in 2016. I also thought it would be something nice to do with my husband who has been a runner for years. The only problem was that I didn’t have a prosthetic leg to run with and my walking leg was heavy and uncomfortable. So, I started to search for a prosthetist who could make me a running blade. The problem with getting a running blade is that it is very expensive. I was lucky that my insurance was willing to cover part of the cost, but I still had to contribute a few thousand dollars to the leg. I had to be very sure that I wanted to run. It isn’t like throwing away a pair of running shoes you don’t like. With a blade you invest a lot of money so you can’t just decide that you are not running anymore. Luckily from the first time I tried on my blade and took a few runs, I fell in love with running and I truly felt like I was flying.
I started with running short distances and I had convinced myself I would only be a short distance runner. I really liked the 5k distance. I seemed to find this distance easy and I even started winning races in my age group. It was an amazing feeling to compete with “normal” runners. I've never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me and that is why I work so hard. I added a bit more distance to my training program and I started running 10ks, but I never ran more than that. In December 2016 I ran my first Half Marathon. I actually signed up to run the 10k but the day before the race I thought why not try the Half Marathon and see how my blade and body handle the distance. WOW, I totally surprised myself. It’s amazing what the body can achieve if you put your mind to it. I finished that race in 2:06 and for someone who was running on a blade, had not trained for a Half Marathon, and had never run that distance before, I thought the result was pretty good. I have now gone on to run a sub 2-hour Half Marathon, which I would never have dreamt a possibility as an amputee. Oh and ironically, I absolutely hated running when I had two legs.
I started to enjoy Half Marathons and I thought I would stick to this distance. I always thought a Marathon is for the really fast and good runners and people who have been running for years, but an opportunity came up for me to run the Chicago marathon and I honestly thought again “why not? Let’s see what happens”. I obviously didn’t think clearly about what it would be like to train during the summer months. Living in North Carolina the summers are brutally hot and humid. I started my training journey and to be honest, some runs were just awful and I sometimes wondered why I am doing this. Then I would get days when I went for my long run and everything just came together and my run felt amazing. I was on a runner high for a few days after my first 20-mile run. Nothing beats that runner’s high.
The Chicago Marathon was amazing. The crowd support helped me get to that finish line and I still can’t believe I actually did it and I am now a Marathoner. It is seriously one of the best feelings in the world. I remember thinking to myself at mile 20 “why am I doing this?” because I felt like I couldn’t lift my legs anymore, but I pushed through and finished the race. When I crossed the finish line I felt so incredibly proud and I qualified for Boston too. I knew then that I will definitely be running more Marathons. So now my training starts for the Boston Marathon in April 2018 and I am so excited. I have a huge race goal but I am willing to fight for it. My goal has always been to inspire others to run and I do hope that with them seeing me out there running that they will do it too.
The best thing about doing any race is the support I get from my fellow runners and that I can inspire them to do better. I can’t even count the number of people who came past me and patted me on the back during the Chicago marathon. People saying things like “You go girl”, “So inspiring” or “ You are such a bad ass”. I also get a lot of feedback on my Instagram account about people who didn’t feel like running, but when they see my post they put their running shoes on and go out for a run. I’ve had runners comment that they saw me at a local race and they were so tired, but when they saw me they realized that if someone can push through the race with one leg, then what is their excuse. That is why I continue running races. I also have my motto “What is your excuse?” on the back of a few of my running shirts.
I’ve been asked a few times by others, what it feels like to be an amputee runner and if I am prone to more injuries. You can compare it to wearing a really nice pair of cushioned shoes that give you a really nice bounce, but you have to get used to it and it takes time to build up trust with the blade. I get injuries just like any other runner, but a lot of injuries will normally happen on my good side as my good leg takes more of the impact when I am running. I normally wear a thigh compression on my leg to protect my IT band. I also get issues with blisters on my stump which can seriously knock you for a few days as you can’t put a band-aid on it and continue but thank goodness that doesn’t happen often. The weather does crazy things to my stump. In hot weather my stump gets swollen so my leg doesn’t always fit well. In cooler weather my stump shrinks so my leg can slide off. Actually this has happened before. I have learned to work around it. In Summer, I sleep with a compression sock on my stump to keep it from swelling too much. In Winter, I just go with the flow. Sometimes I have to stop to pull my leg back up. Thank goodness I have never fallen flat on my face, ha, ha, ha
People ask me if I need to buy both shoes. Unfortunately I do, but I always ask the shop assistant if I can get half price. It is hilarious to see their facial expression as they don’t know what to do. They don’t want to discriminate against an amputee, but they have also never dealt with a question like that before. I have a lot of brand new left shoes in my cupboard so if anyone is looking for size 9.5 left shoes, please contact me!