Tomorrow marks more than one anniversary for me. Both are special...Here is one of them...
So tomorrow marks the completion of forty-six years of running. I started at age 13, July 1st 1976. I was told I was too slow. I was told I had too many foot and hip issues. I was told that I’d quit, because I was a girl. I was told I’d grow out of it by end of high school. I was told my knees would get destroyed and I’d be an old lady by age forty and all crippled. My mom asked me one day when I was a teenager, “So at what age do you think you can run till?” I responded, “Oh, I don’t know 65, maybe.” She replied, “Yep. I think so.”
It was implied I’d lose the will to run let alone race when I became a mother. I was told, it couldn’t be done. A record couldn’t be set by someone with no talent, rearing children and working full time. I was told I’d be tired and get distracted and end up like everyone else in one of the tribes I have been associated with.
So I ran anyway... I’d sit in high school classrooms and stare out the window when boring time arrived in the class and picture myself running grass hills with ease. No one knew that running was and is the most difficult thing I’ve done and do on a daily basis. I’ve incurred multiple injuries while running. I once counted and recounted to my friend Nina Bovio, that within the first thirty years I’d been running, I’d lost over four years of running days due to illness and injury.
In my first year I became fourth in the league in cross-country and honorable mention all county. I set the two mile track record that year as a freshman. I was called, “Crazy 8" by the coaches. The reason being is they never saw a kid run around the track smiling during a race and practice incessantly. Except me, I smiled and didn’t even know I was smiling most the time. And the number “8" stood for 8 laps equaled two miles. I became 5th in the league in my freshman year in the two mile. I ran injured that spring and summer after spraining both ankles. I ran from the second to last meet of the regular season through to the League meet, the County meet and the State Group and State Sectional meets with both ankles booted in tape my freshman track year.
Both ankles were yellow and swollen for over two weeks.
My left foot pained me quite often as that was the foot that was the weakest and turned in the most and flopped when I was tired. My hamstrings were a-bug-a-boo. Injuring them quite often through the first fifteen years of running many times over. Little did we know I had malformations in my lower spine and was born without the L5-S1 disc in my back. I had weaknesses in both quads within the first eight years of running, that I was told my knees were so bad and patellas misaligned that I wouldn’t be able to run a step past the age of thirty. I was told this at age 21 and 5 months. I decided to fix my quadriceps on my own. I also figured out how to make my own special bra before there really was a sport bra. I figured out and made my own temporary orthodics when I felt I needed some assistance, as my foot pain and lower leg pains would almost halt my running. I taught myself how to strap my feet with Elastoplast rebuilding a sinking arch in my left foot.
I was told a girl will never beat a guy in running, especially a girl like me with no talent. I won three races outright over the men and women later in life. A Fifty Miler in Detroit, Crosscountry terrain in a wicked storm that produced tornados in the midwest in end of 2002. I won outright over men and women a Six hour trot till you drop trail terrain run in May of 2003. I then won as a first time Mom outright over men and women a Twelve Hour Trot till you drop run in 2004.
I set the 24 Hour Women’s Treadmill Record in 2005 at age 42.5 for North America ranked second in the world until this 2018, now it’s fifth in the world, 2nd in North America.
I’ve raced across deserts, trails, all sorts of surfaces. I’ve ran up the side of mountains when I was nearly falling backward due to the incredible grade; such as Mount Whitney in California, Smuggler’s Notch in Stowe, VT.
I was self-coached from 1980-1988. Jack Scullion was my first coach, cross-country and an amazing man. He retired down to south Jersey. He wrote me some months ago. Mr. Clancy my head track coach in high school died towards the end of 1998. Mr. Deluccia, still around in the area, or the last time I saw him, the assistant track coach in high school.
People offered to coach me but they tried to just dumb me down. People attempted to discourage me from running a marathon. The world found out that the earth was no longer flat, I guess. Yet, they still felt a woman would die running a marathon. Just ask Katherine Switzer. Uncoached and told my body was unable to handle the miles men would run in America, I decided to try to train like a man. The first attempt I was out of action for over eight months and told running was not for me and wouldn’t be.
My second attempt, I was injured yet somehow rebounded, albeit in pain. Then again my third attempt finally achieving ten weeks of 100 miles plus per week of running. I was sidelined after the third marathon and couldn’t run for two months. I had so many things strapped and taped on me going into that marathon, I look back now and wonder how did I do that? I didn’t produce the time I desired but a 2:57 back then wasn’t so bad for anyone much less a woman in 1986 However, it was quite physically painful.
Injuries plagued me, mostly my left foot, left hamstring, my shins, ankles, bukoo sciatic nerve issues and my sacro-iliac joints. Injuries plagued me even worse after I suffered a physical assault by a man, in the middle of a light training run one sunny weekday morning in 1991. I lost two inches in diameter on my right thigh and underwent eight hours of spine surgery, graphing part of my right hip out to repair my lower back with metal plating and screws. (Before the surgery I was misdiagnosed six times by four different doctors, they didn’t know I had fractures in my back. They took the x-rays wrong.) That took me ten years post operatively to get rid of the limp I had when I’d run a certain speed past two miles. I ran through most everything. I had much physical therapy from 1993-end of 1999. I continued to do my own rehab through 2004, after one day in June of 2003 I realized I had my right leg almost all the way back. I then knew ultra running was the way to go. I’d been racing ultras since 2001, yet after my 41st marathon in 2003 I gave up the 26.2 mile distance and stuck with thirty miles and longer. 2007 I felt fried emotionally on running and dabbled in very short races a few times, but I really needed a rest. I was exhausted from all the years of physical therapy, children, full-time work, and running high mileage weeks. The rest made me feel another strong pull for another attempt of insane miles, more than I’d ever trained per week, I decided, now was the time. I set my sights on another big charity run. I wanted to raise $100,000 this time, not $25,000. I asked myself, “What would push me to the brink?” The answer, “Do more than double the mileage that I’ve ever done all at once.”
I eventually reached 230 miles a week. But couldn’t maintain it that long in 2008. I oscillated between 140-230 miles a week that year. Then I had to back off after each of the four events I’d ran. I got in 6,000 miles that year. I had my second highest running mileage year 2009. And tomorrow I will be just shy of 170,000 miles of running for a lifetime.
I battled injury after injury, yet maintained most weeks of the year were 100 or more miles a week from 1986 till 2011. I’ve ran through many fractures, many colds, some fevers, tendonitis galore. I don’t take pain-killers, I don’t do healing with pills, I do it with food, water, prayer, self-massage, homeopathy, taping, acupuncture, and movement. I ran races and charity events from 1976-2008. Probably close to 500 events I ran. In 2009 I changed athletic careers. Yet, running is still in my life 65-70 miles a week. It is a good foundation as a fighter.
When people tell me they’re bored with running and that’s why they need to listen to music, I know that’s not the issue. They are not bored. Their mind is weak. Running brings out the best and the worst in us. Those people cannot live without noise and do not want to be distracted by thoughts their spirit is telling them.
When you run your spirit talks to you. If you’ve ran silent through the night at any given time outside alone, you discover your fears, your nightmares and your dreams. You face your demons, and chip away at the parts of you that have been indoctrinated in you by others. Your thoughts go deeper and you find yourself with a new perspective at the end of the run. For me especially as a middle class working Mom, when my children were little, I found more peace running when Hubby is home and at 2 or 3am in the morning. The silence is deafening. And you find out who you are. A fighter.—Jody-Lynn “Rainman” Reicher