Why I Run: the No-Excuses Edition

With just 10 days until the MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Half Marathon, I am posting another “why I run” update, and today’s may be the most important, and the most simplistic:

I run because I can.

X-ray of the lumbar region of my spine, 2015
X-ray of the lumbar region of my spine, 2015

This is a picture of my spine (from this year). Yes, that is a substantial amount of hardware and yes, that will be a part of me for the rest of my life.

So here’s the backstory: When I was 14 years old my cardiologist (I have an innocent heart murmur, and have had it since grade school) discovered a small curve near the base of my neck. He said it didn’t look too severe but it was undoubtedly scoliosis, and he suggested my mother take me to an orthopedist, which she did on March 17, 1998. I’ll never forget the day because my doctor, vertically challenged as I am, wore a bright yellow shirt, green tie, and green pants. He looked like a leprechaun. After a series of x-rays and brief physical exam we were taken to a fairly large office with a pair massive windows. Between the two windows was an illuminated “view box” with two films, a side view and straight-on view (like above). Both were mine. My doctor sat me, my mother, and my grandmother down and explained I had two curves: a thoracic curve, the one my cardiologist had seen, and a lumbar curve. The lumber curve was the problem. The lumbar curve was a point of major concern. With a marker and compass-like device he showed us how he measured the curve and explained it was 54 degrees. In my head I rationalized the size. It was an acute angle. He seemed concerned but it was small, at least in geometric terms.

It wasn’t until he mentioned surgery may be my only solution that I realized its severity.

Surgery wasn’t our first option, but it was the final outcome. I was fitted for, and wore, a backbrace 16 hours a day for several months — the fiberglass case covered my entire torso and spanned from my armpit to the top of my pelvic bone. I still wonder whether the curve worsened on its own accord or due to my inconsistency with that piece of crap (I often took it off and stowed it in my  locker, after countless peers made fun of my Quasimodo-like appearance) but by time I returned to the doctor that fall my curve exceeded 60 degrees.

X-ray, side view, 2015
X-ray, side view, 2015

In February 1999 I endured an eight-and-a-half hour operation. My lower left rib was removed and ground into a paste (of sorts) and used, along with five screws and one steel rod, to fuse my spine. I was out of school for six weeks and didn’t resume any real physical activity until after graduation, two-and-a-half years later.

Today I run because I can. I run because I am not a porcelain doll, because I am lucky, and because I have no excuse not to.


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