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Once a Boston Marathoner....... Always a Boston Marathoner

This coming Patriot's Day in Boston (or the 3rd Monday in April) will mark 2 years since the oldest annual marathon road race was forced to cancel the event for the first time in its 124 year history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the 2021 race went on, it had to be run in October. This year, it will have been 3 years since the race was last run on Patriot's Day in Boston with the 126th running. I am fortunate enough to have been one of the 22,721 finishers in the 2010 Boston Marathon. Like most people who toe the line in Hopkinton, MA, the road to Boston and running in general is not without its challenges.

My brother in law, Marc, was entirely responsible for me even considering trying to qualify to run the Boston Marathon. He had qualified at the Burlington Marathon in Vermont in May of 2009. I was at that event with my wife cheering him on from the side of the course. After meeting him at the finish line and congratulating him, I started my journey spending the next 5 months getting serious about training. At this point in my running career I had participated in road races at all distance from as short as a 1 mile race at a horse racing harness track to completing two marathons the first in Cleveland Ohio and the second in Cape Cod Massachusetts. I had run with Marc in both of those marathons. Now that he was in for the 2010 Boston Marathon, I had to do everything I could to get myself there. I found the Hudson-Mohawk marathon starting in Schenectady, NY finishing along the Hudson river in Albany, NY to be the target race to punch my ticket to Boston.

I had a plague of injuries during this time. One of the main reasons I had not run in the Burlington Marathon was due to ongoing plantar fascia pain and knee pain. Things only got worse as I began to ramp up my mileage. I started getting bi-weekly massages, having orthopedic consultations, and finally visiting a physical therapist. The massage and physical therapy efforts were able to get me to the starting line and allowed me to set my Marathon PR in that fall race with a finishing time of 3:05:31. I came in 40th place out of 726 runners. This is right around the time that my interest in Physical Therapy really ramped up. I had been so impressed by the physical therapist who was helping me that I began the work to change careers and pursue a degree in Physical Therapy. Though, I still had to train for the Boston Marathon that was coming up in April.

Living in upstate New York and training for an April marathon you get to experience a wide array of weather conditions. Often times a winter storm forces you to complete a training run on a "dreadmill". That is what I used to call them because I enjoyed, and still do enjoy, being outside when running more than being stuck inside on a machine not really going anywhere. During this time the knee pain became progressively worse. It began hurting even when I wasn't running. On a return consultation with an orthopedic I was given a cortisone shot into my knee. My knee hurt worse immediately after having the injection and didn't return to my pre-injection baseline until about 3 days later. I was fearful of what I would have to do with the Marathon on the forefront of my mind. I was forced to cut my mileage down significantly. That helped a little but eventually it was painful to walk and unbearable to sit. I stopped running altogether and started thinking about whether I would have to walk the Boston marathon that I had set a PR in while qualifying for. I switched up my training to spinning classes and swimming and found that I was able to get in exceptional physical condition without hardly running at all. I also incorporated strength training into my weekly program, something I should have been doing a long time ago. With a few weeks to go until the race, a running friend of mine (Larry) asked if wanted to accompany him on his last long run before Boston. I tried to get out of it multiple times but was encouraged to come along and was offered the option to slow down or stop anytime that I needed to. My nerves began to calm each mile further into the run. I completed that entire run likely distracted by the social interaction along the way. I didn't even think about my knee. For the first time in 3-4 months I was confident that I could actually finish in Boston. Not only did I run it but I crossed the line at the 2010 Boston marathon in 3:14:56 and did not have a single moment of knee pain during that race. Though it could have been the kinesiology tape I was able to have applied at the expo 2 nights before the race (see picture below), the power of the mind is not something to be understated.

I often reflect back on this time in my life as sort of a reawakening. If you have ever heard Rod Stewart when he sings, "I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger", thats sums of this time in my life. If I had more knowledge, experience, and access to those with more knowledge and experience about running it would have been significantly easier for me to get myself back on track and back to pain-free running. I am grateful to have connected with those who helped me then. It was a time that inspired me, challenged me, and changed me on many levels.

Fast forward to 12 years later, my wife and I have 3 growing children. As parents our main responsibility is our family. My wife and I are constantly juggling so many different daily/weekly activities. Some days are easier and less active. Other days, we seem to be double and triple booked with places we need to be. Even if you are not a parent, our lives are filled with responsibilities. We have jobs, friends, parents, siblings, meals to prepare, lunches to pack, housework, homework to check...I know you get what I am talking about. As parents, I have found that our children's' needs are put first often before taking care of our own. This is what some may argue makes a good parent. But what we need to realize, and I am guilty of this, is that we really should take care of ourselves first. If something were to happen to you, what kind of situation would those who depend on you find themselves in? This is akin to the example of putting on the oxygen mask on the airplane. You instinctually want to put in on your child first, but you can’t help them if you are unconscious. For this same reason, we need to make a very intentional decision and buy in to working on ourselves. When you make a decision to take care of you by choosing to work with me, you are able to make improvements physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is exactly what happened to me when I had chose to work with my trusted therapist. My situation turned from doom and gloom to hopeful and optimistic.

When people decide to work with me, they gain a coach, a friend, and someone who really cares about them just like others have cared about me. I will hold you accountable. That accountability is the key to actually being successful and has been the key to any success that I have had with running and with life. I started my business out of a passion and desire to help others who are interested in an active lifestyle, who may have various hurdles preventing them from maximizing their potential. You may not know where to start in trying to figure it out on your own. Don't do it alone. Let’s work through this together, share experiences, and help others. Learning that helping yourself will carry forward and allow you to help others is a powerful human experience.

Click HERE to learn more about VanSlyke Physical Therapy or BOOK NOW to get started on making a change.

Be well!

Dr. Matt

Marc and I post race photo April 4/19/2010.

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