The Boston Marathon will always be a profound event in our lives. Today, we pause to think of our friends Bill and Denise as they continue to cope with unimaginable tragedy. Here at home, we remember my husband Anthony running for Team MR8 in 2014 — my emotional tribute can be found here.
I admire my husband for countless reasons. His running the marathon for the Martin Richard Foundation was one of the most memorable and touching events of our years together. Recently, we’ve learned that it was a miracle he was able to run at all.
This past November, excruciating shooting pain down his right leg led us to several doctor’s appointments. X-rays followed. Then, a diagnosis: Spondylolisthesis. Essentially, the base of his spine — his L5 — is out of place. Like a train car that slid off its tracks. Take a look for yourself:
This condition is usually caused by trauma, like a car accident. That doesn’t apply to Anthony. Doctors believe he was born with it and it’s gotten worse over time. High impact activities — i.e. RUNNING — aggravate and exacerbate the problem.
While training for the marathon, Anthony had chronic pain down his leg, which we attributed to his IT band. He had a roller and specific stretches to help, but mostly, he just ran through the pain.
Let me say that again: He ran through the pain. This wasn’t a pulled muscle or cramp. This is a spinal chord injury. He ran through nerve pain. When his doctors heard he had run a marathon — the Boston Marathon no less — with this condition, they were shocked.
With the diagnosis, Anthony was told he would never be able to run again. For most people, that might not be a big deal. For us, it was. It is. It wasn’t only a form of exercise, it was a lifestyle. It was therapeutic. More than once, it was a spiritual experience. With three young boys and a high-stress career, running was an efficient and easy way for Anthony to keep in shape. Not to mention — fun. Running races of all distances was something we both looked forward to continuing for years to come. How many times had he told me: “I can’t wait to run a 5K with the boys.” Some of you might know the story: Anthony proposed to me after a run. How much more significant can a form of exercise get?
Hey, let’s be real. This is not the end of the world. We know how lucky we are in so many ways — our overall good health, our entire family’s well-being is intact. We are beyond blessed. This back thing stinks, sure. But we’re staying positive. We hope to avoid surgery. We’re managing the pain that we know now will never go away, but hopefully will not worsen. Anthony’s taking this opportunity to try new things, like yoga — yay! So far, it hasn’t hurt his golf game —whew! Hopefully, he can find something close to that runner’s high again.
This is another reason why Marathon Monday will always be bittersweet for us. But ask Anthony if he has any regrets about running the Boston Marathon in 2014, raising over $25k for the Martin Richard Foundation, and he would not hesitate. The answer would be a resounding no.
I don’t know the particulars of your husband’s situation, but I just want to add that a diagnosis of spondylolisthesis doesn’t mean the end of a running career. I have it and have run four full marathons and am training for a fifth. Of course there are exercises to strengthen the core and stabilize the area, and sometimes there’s pain, but running is a lifestyle with huge benefits and shouldn’t be thrown away upon hearing this type of news. I would add that seeking out a second opinion about treatment options should be strongly considered.
Congratulations to your husband on the completion of the Boston, his fundraising efforts and for honoring Martin. Thank you for sharing the story as it is very touching.
I shared this note with my husband. We both thank you for kind words and vote of encouragement. Impressive that you’ve run four marathons with spondylolithesis! A feat even for those with the healthiest of spines! Good luck with your running career, and continue to stay in-tune with your body, as it seems you are. My husband will do the same.