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There’s always something to howl about

I ran today for the first time in sixteen years…

If you’ve seen me in real life, you that know I walk with an ugly limp. I walk fast, but I don’t walk pretty. I was in a car accident in October of 1994, and one of my injuries was the severing of the nerves that control my left foot. Looks normal, works okay, but I can’t push off with that foot, nor curl my toes toward my nose, nor elevate that foot when it’s hanging in mid-air.

I have nothing to complain about. I had truly great doctors, including eight hours under the lights with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stuart Kozinn, a consistent favorite in Phoenix magazine’s “Best Doctors” feature.

And, since then, my legs have always been very strong. Dr. Kozinn and I were both determined that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, so I did everything I could to get my legs back under me. I can ride my bike for miles and miles at top speed in the desert heat, because that’s how I got my stride back.

But: I could not run. You have to be able to push off to run, because your toes can’t be dragging on the ground as you are swinging your leg forward. That would hurt — even before you tripped and fell on your face.

I loved to run before the accident. I never cared about exercise when I was young, but I never needed to: I was a high-D in a red-hot hurry. I ran everywhere. I loped everywhere, sailing through the air in nine-yard strides.

So when I couldn’t run any longer, I really missed it. I dream about running, and I love to go to the supermarket so I can run through the aisles, supporting my upper body on the shopping cart.

And all that changed today. Cathleen has been on my case for a while to buy Skechers Shape-Ups shoes. The marketing promise is better fitness, a workout while you walk, but the reality is pretty dramatic. There is so much up-thrust from the heels of those shoes that they replicate the effect of a strong push-off from the toes.

Walking the dogs this morning, I took off running, and it was easy, no problems at all. I was running like a toddler, mind you, always one foot on the ground. But that’s a lot more running than I’ve been able to do since Bill Clinton was courting chubby teenagers.

I’m dying to lope, but I can stand to take my time to make sure I won’t hurt myself. But I can jog. Odysseus doesn’t hate it, Shyly purely loves it, and I’m eager to find out how far I can go.

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  • 17 comments

    17 Comments so far

    1. Thesa Chambers November 29th, 2010 9:19 pm

      This hits me so close to home it is scary – my husband was in a trucking accident almost 4 years ago – and he can not run for many of the same reasons – he has a rod, 4 plates, 35 screws and 4 bone grafts holding his right leg together – he now walks – but it has been a long haul – guess what he is getting for Christmas – thanks for the positive word today

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    3. Greg Swann November 29th, 2010 10:37 pm

      > he has a rod, 4 plates, 35 screws and 4 bone grafts holding his right leg together

      I don’t have that much hardware, but, even so, when Brian Brady I flew together out of Orlando, it was him the TSA hassled. Go figure.

      > guess what he is getting for Christmas – thanks for the positive word today

      Even if he doesn’t run in them, he will like what they do for his walking. They’re amazing shoes.

    4. Valerie Crowell November 30th, 2010 7:18 am

      That must have been an amazing feeling for you. I miss running and I have no reason. Thanks for the kick in the butt.

    5. Sean Purcell November 30th, 2010 9:20 am

      The joy of running is so pure – my best wishes these shoes return it to you.

    6. Jeff Brown November 30th, 2010 11:04 am

      I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s a chance of nerve regeneration due to consistently increased blood flow, and activity in the area. Also, I’m grinning as I imagine you, as Hank Stram famously said, ‘matriculatin’ down the road’ with the hounds by your side.

      Greg Swan running. Another skin on the wall.

    7. Don Reedy November 30th, 2010 11:15 am
    8. Meg Hurtado November 30th, 2010 11:40 am

      love this post. really. good for you and good luck!

    9. Jim Whatley November 30th, 2010 12:56 pm

      My 13 son and I run 5 to 6 days a week. most would not call it running but for me it is.

      it also make me sell everyday. Getting a 13 year old boy up early and out the door every morning is a tough sale.

      a quote from Will Smith Actor.

      question: Have you always been a runner?
      Smith: I started about five years ago. Running introduces you to your worst enemy, to that person who tells you, “Ooh, our ankles hurt and we should stop. Why do we need to run five miles? Let us run three.” That is the same person who says to the man, “Hey, your wife will never find out if you sleep with her,” and the same person who tells the 16-year-old, “You are not gonna be cool if you do not smoke it.” If you start giving in to that person, you will never get to your goals.

    10. Tom Bryant November 30th, 2010 9:13 pm

      See you on the Bridle Path : )

    11. Greg Swann December 1st, 2010 6:50 am

      > The joy of running is so pure – my best wishes these shoes return it to you.

      I have fond memories of fun trips I used to take — 92nd Street and West End Avenue to Columbus Circle, Park Avenue South to the Upper West Side, the Back Bay to Harvard Square. But my absolute favorite place to run was the Lexington Avenue tunnels leading down to the number 7 train at Grand Central Station. Those tracks are way, way down, under everything already stacked up at that spot, so the walkways are long, long tunnels at a pretty steep grade. Going down, you can leap into a lope that covers 40 feet per footfall. Judge wrong and you’ll scrape your head or slam into a wall or knock a little old lady down. But at 4 am, those tunnels are empty and you can fly…

    12. Greg Swann December 1st, 2010 7:07 am

      > I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s a chance of nerve regeneration due to consistently increased blood flow, and activity in the area.

      Not happening. I had about two years for the nerve to reestablish the connection. No change in performance for 16 years. FWIW, I’ve never failed to manipulate the bones manually, like a fat flamingo of a ballerina, to retain the range of motion in my ankle and my toes. Had I not done that, everything would have locked up long ago. So the foot will move, but only by the application of force from other muscles, not by mental intention. I can issue the orders and see a little jerkiness, but the full communication line is down for good.

      > Another skin on the wall.

      That’s the way I see it. I never let that accident cripple me, but I’ve let time and inertia take more from me than I should have. I want to run, even with de facto prosthetic shoes, but I want to do a lot of very fun things I used to do with my body before I let work and weariness pose as my excuses for not doing them. I used to swim for miles and miles without thinking twice about it. I don’t know if I can still do that, but it would be fun to try.

    13. Greg Swann December 1st, 2010 7:12 am

      > Joy to the World…and you, Greg.

      That was a fun clip.

    14. Greg Swann December 1st, 2010 7:34 am

      > If you start giving in to that person, you will never get to your goals.

      That’s it. The intention is to get up and run, but the warmth of that bed has its own cloying charms. Without the meta-intention to rise above the appetites, you cannot get to where you want to go.

    15. Greg Swann December 1st, 2010 7:37 am

      > See you on the Bridle Path

      I can’t take that pressure. We’re on the canal. Late this morning, too, to let the sun get all the way up.

    16. Al Lorenz December 1st, 2010 6:11 pm

      Thanks for letting us share in your joy. Just like the old P F Flyer commercials!

    17. Barry Cox December 11th, 2010 8:22 am

      Congrats! It must be a great feeling for you. We recently purchased a new treadmill because it seems we just don’t make it to the gym as often as we would like. I’m loving it. Wake up, turn on the news, and get some exercise every morning.

      It’s funny you mention the Sketchers. I’ll have to do some reading on them, but wondered what they were all about last time I was out looking for new shoes. Those shoes are hard to miss as they’re very unique looking.