Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 24 Jan 2001 08:48:23 -0500

Losing It

RUNNING COMMENTARY 340

My December Runner's World column, "Lessons from Layoffs," told of appreciating running all the more after it's taken away. I heard from many laid-off readers.

They said thanks for the assurance that, yes, they probably will run again -- or at least would come to terms with their loss. But mostly they took this chance to share their pain.

Two of the writers are named Bruce. Both suffered through knee surgery this fall.

Bruce Benning wrote from Ohio, "Training for a marathon this past June, I blew out my knee and tore my ACL [anterior cruciate ligament]. In October I had reconstructive surgery on the knee. I have never come close to an injury like this before and have been very concerned that I may never run again."

As encouragement I forwarded a column by Bruce Brothers, a longtime RC reader and friend of mine. He writes for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

"I have long been optimistic; it's one of my strengths," the column began. "Hope is significant, hope is what a major part of life hinges on, hope is what you grab for when you find yourself going down."

He dipped deeply into his reservoirs of hope this fall when a surgeon announced the need for major surgery. Bruce described it as "literally breaking the leg, grafting bone from my hip, and inserting a steel plate and screws." Afterward would come a long spell on crutches and in rehab, and "no guarantees about future running."

Hope was hard to find when Bruce lay on his back, gobbling painkillers, and feeling almost helpless. Then he thought to call Dick Beardsley, one of the most hopeful people he knew.

"I think I had eight arthroscopies on one knee," said Beardsley, who in 1982 ran a marathon that's still this country's fourth fastest ever. Eventually, in 1995, the 'scoping was no longer enough. Dick required an osteotomy, the same major surgery as Bruce's.

"My doctor said don't ever run again on it," Beardsley said. "Of course, they're conservative; they always say that."

A year passed before Dick could run again, and two years before he was pain free. Last spring he returned to the marathon, finishing Napa Valley (RC 299).

"Distance runners are truly independent; no one helps you get to the finish line," Bruce wrote while still on crutches. "It is a major change when you suddenly need assistance refilling your coffee mug.

"But now I accept my situation. I smile appreciatively when little old ladies hold a door for me, a guy who not long ago ran 50-mile races.

"Friends and family members who delivered dinners or shoveled my sidewalk or simply called to offer encouragement gave me something priceless as I struggled with an uncertain athletic future. They gave me hope."

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