To Begin With …


Karen Gartner

Like most people, I did some running in school for phys-ed and track meets. My distance was the 440 (and I honestly can’t remember if that was yards or metres). I was not fast as I was saddened to learn at my one and only track meet competition in grade 7. So that was the end of that.

I tried again in University, running a single mile (which in my mind was HUGE) and trying to lose weight only to have my doctor belittle me with, “one mile is nowhere near long enough to lose weight.” So that was the end of that.

I was doing a show at a theatre (yes, I’m an actor as well as other descriptors) with a fellow who was running marathons. I’d never known anyone like that before. I watched him do a marathon before the Sunday matinee (which blew my mind) and over time, my competitive nature started to kick in. I was still smoking at the time (yes, hilarious in hindsight).

Over time, I continued to run, quit smoking, built myself up to half-marathon distance (13.1 miles or 21 km) — and training for that was where the key to weight loss was for me. I was described as “gaunt” at one time which tickled me no end. I didn’t race, I just wanted to have the fitness and endurance running provided. I always ran outside. To this day I cannot run on a treadmill, nor do I want to. God bless them that can, but I am not among them.

Hiccup #1 – 1994

I had squished my SI joint in rehearsal for a show and was put on a serious amount of ibuprofen to deal with the inflammation and pain at the base of my spine. After a few months I was told before I did physical things like gardening or running, to take a couple of ibuprofen beforehand and that would decrease the discomfort of the activity.

About a mile from home, running with my two dogs, like flicking a light switch I couldn’t breathe. I was wheezing and checking my fingernails for blue tinge as I walked to take my dogs home and get to a medical centre. As it turned out, my allergy history made me prone to ibuprofen causing asthma (exercise induced in my case). So that was the end of that.

Hiccup #2 – 1998

After things asthma-ish became well-controlled, I re-trained myself to run and was also playing competitive tennis. I reached placing 4th in the province in the ladies “B” division. I was doing really well.

Finals at the St. Albert tennis tournament – if successful there was a t-shirt and maybe a trophy in my future. I leapt for an overhead smash, but bounced off the fence and came down unexpectedly with my shin bone heading in one direction and my thigh bone heading in the opposite direction. So I got an ACL reconstruction instead. So that was the end of that.

Hiccup #3 – 2006

Once the knee was happy again, I re-trained to run up to 10K. The work situation was not booming, so I couldn’t afford to go back to playing tennis. ☹️ But I could run and so run I did.

I was putting in about 15 miles per week — and gaining 12 pounds per month!! Believe it or not, it took the medical profession more than 3 months to figure out my thyroid was blown. At that point I was too heavy to run; my knees could not handle the added tonnage. So I get a lifetime prescription of Synthroid. And that was the end of that.

Hiccup #4 – 2016

This hiccup actually started in 2011. Because I was under 55 at the time, my doctor would not do anything about my hip pain. Instead, I was diagnosed, sans x-rays, with bursitis and given a cortisone shot. That took care of my pain for a full year. Still too heavy to run, I did make an effort to do something … I had a rowing machine in my basement and filled a couple of big salsa bottles with water to use as weights. That didn’t last long. I like playing games, like tennis or volleyball or basketball or golf, but I am not a happy person standing still doing repetitions of an exercise. Down went the mood and up went the relationship with my couch.

A new doctor and I still was being deemed too young to have anything wrong with my hip. Three years later, I suspect in order to shut me up, I got sent for an x-ray. The phone call came. “With these results we have to ask you a questionnaire. Can you walk a block without pain?” I said, “About a year and a half ago, now I can’t make it from my bed to the toilet without pain, as I mentioned.” Silence.

Three months later, on T3s and Celebrex, I had my triage appointment at the Hip and Knee clinic to see if it was bad enough to warrant surgery. Yup, it was. I was huge. At the triage visit I was put on a scale for the first time in ages. I topped out at 220 pounds. I have a photo of myself holding my first grand-nephew and my own sister didn’t recognize me.

Waiting list was a year, but I told them to slide me in if there was a cancellation and I had the surgery nine months later on March 9, 2016. The x-ray taken the day before the surgery revealed I’d been walking on a dislocated hip for sometime as things were left so long before action was taken. And that was the end of that.

Hiccups #5 and #6 – 2017 and 2018

My mom’s feet had started to do insanely weird stuff; and mine started showing an inclination along the same route. Both big toes were starting to angle towards their minor siblings. In my mom’s case they had lain down behind the two next toes, forcing her to weeble and wobble.

I reckoned if the good Lord is willing, I have a few more decades on this planet and I’d like to live them as non-mobility challenged as possible. So I got set up with a podiatric surgeon who straightened me out one foot at a time, nine months apart.

😊 Both feet healed up fine. June 2019 was the anniversary of the last surgery. That is the end of the hiccups.

The New Normal

I had not run since 2008. But I was healed up from everything and was into my 11th year of an intimate relationship with my couch. We were still getting along as well as we ever did, but I felt like a blob.

I had a fake hip. Could I run? The physiotherapists at the hip and knee clinic said no. (They told me I’d never be able to cross my legs again, too.) The physiotherapists where I did my rehab looked at me strangely when I asked if I could go back to running. Apparently no one had ever asked that question after a THR before. (I think most of their THR patients were a tad older than me.) They looked some stuff up for me and said it would be fine. Recent studies had proven it did not damage the new joint any more than day to day wear and tear. To top it off, my surgeon had told me to let the hip tell me what it would tolerate.

Late spring 2019. I’m thinking I could give it a go, but instead of training myself like I had the previous umpteen times I’d started over, I should take a class. The most basic class offered and see if the hip had opinions about the whole exercise thing. Plus, if it dislocated on me, I’d have the whole class to help me back to my car! I wasn’t worried about my feet at all. My foot strike had adjusted nicely and I usually experienced little to no pain.

I should look it up and see. Maybe in a month I’d be ready to get some shoes (actual ladies’ shoes instead of men’s that accommodated my wide-foot bunions!) and some age and weight appropriate apparel. I don’t expect to look good — that’s not gonna happen — I just don’t want to run naked and scare anyone.

I emailed the Running Room for the Learn to Run class. Did they have a class for old farts?
– Our classes are for all ages. (I’d like to state here, no they’re not.)
– I’d like the Learn to Run course, please.
– You’re in luck! The course at your location is starting next Monday. You can register online.
– (Trying to remember how to inhale.) OK. Thanks lots.

Decision time. I can continue my comfortable sloth-like life, in which case I will have cured my physical ails so I could be the bride of La-Z-Boy the rest of whatever, or I could tell the couch I just want to be friends going forward and take the plunge. And, hey, maybe the hip doesn’t want to run and I know the couch will always wait for me. Registration done. And that’s the end of that.