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  • Writer's pictureKristi Campanella

My Story

My Story

I thought I would share some of my story so you know where I am coming from and maybe it will help someone out there to know that they can do it. If I can, so can you. I sometimes feel like the chef in Ratatouille, “anyone can run”. Of course, he says,” anyone can cook” but you get the idea.

I feel like running has saved me so many times. Not only has it saved my sanity (that is probably the biggest save of all) but physically and probably emotionally, running has saved or rescued me. I may not be as fast as I want to right now, but running seems to make everything in my life better.

I didn’t start really running until I was 30. Up until then I may have done a 5k here and there or go out to run when I felt upset because it made me feel better. I did do a little running in my 9th-grade year and of course some in middle school. My middle school running was just because they had no one else willing to do certain events like the triple jump, high jump, hurdles, and 200m relay so I said I would do it. Can we really call that the beginning of my running life? I’m not too sure. I was still highly invested in gymnastics which was my love from a very early age all the way until college.

When I was 30 I was fortunate to have a group of friends that ran and did triathlons. I decided to try a marathon with a friend and after that, I was hooked on running. I felt my best when I ran. If I had a problem to solve I went for a run, and by the time I got home, I had it solved. I became fairly good and even won a few races in my age group. Then I moved to Colorado and got married. This is when everything changed for me and running. I got married when I was 32 and by 36 I had not gotten pregnant so I spoke with my doctor about this issue. They did testing and told me my body fat was too low and I was not producing some hormones I needed to get pregnant. She suggested I gain 20 pounds (of fat) to see if I would produce the hormones on my own. I really stressed over this because I had never struggled with weight and to be faster at running it was helpful to stay lean. I finally decided to gain the weight which meant considerably reducing my usual workouts for the week. I did start producing the hormones on my own.

At age 37, while beginning fertility treatment, I fractured 3 vertebrae in my spine while trying to stop a patient from falling. The pain was very intense and took a long time for me to feel normal again (15 months). I went running as soon as I possibly could stand the pain of the impact. I could only do ¼ of a mile and I had to shuffle but it made me feel good to think I could run again. I continued with my rehab diligently and kept running against the doctor’s advice. (Please note that I do not recommend going against doctor's advice despite the fact that I did.) I knew I had to run for my mental healing. When I fractured my spine I also bulged the disc at L5/S1 and had numbness in my leg for almost a year. This made sleeping very difficult and left me feeling tired all the time. I was beginning to progress with my running when I had two separate instances of internal hemorrhaging from the fertility drugs I was taking. I was too weak to run at this point. Next, I had a tumor that killed my right ovary and I had to get the tumor removed as well as the ovary. This left a 6-inch incision across my lower abdomen and some pretty pathetic abs. I was determined to get started running again because it had been so long and I felt fat, soft and stressed.

I started feeling like I was getting back to normal again several months later and I was mowing the grass and stepped in a hole and tore my soleus muscle on the left as well as the anterior talofibular ligament off the bone. I had to be in a boot for 3 months. This killed me to have just gotten back to some running and have to stop again. A few times I took the boot off and ran a little anyway because I felt like I was dying. Cycling and swimming just did not give me the same feeling as running. I recovered from this and stepped off a treatment table and landed poorly and tore my lateral meniscus in the right knee. This time I didn’t stop running. Walking hurt worse than running so I kept going.

After recovering from the ankle and knee injuries I began running consistently again and trying to race again. This was the slowest I had ever raced but I was happy to be able to do it again. I continued to try to improve my times while undergoing fertility treatments but I continued to be much slower than I had ever been. I entered tons of races just to stay in it. I continued with fertility treatments, preparing for an IVF cycle. Then when I was 42, I was preparing for the fertilized egg to be placed in my uterus when things went awry again. I was on birth control pills to regulate my cycle. I began feeling strange and one morning at work one of my patients walked me over to the ER because I could not balance on my left leg and I was drooling out of the left side of my mouth. They suspected a stroke. I stayed in the ER 5 hours while they ran tests on me and found nothing. I thought it was an allergic reaction because I had so many while undergoing treatments. They gave me a Zyrtec and I got slightly better. They finally ruled it an allergic reaction that made my entire left side numb. I followed up with my doctor a couple of days later and he ran further tests which showed no evidence of a stroke. I was still numb on the left side. He tried medical acupuncture which hurt like crazy but in a few days my numbness got a little better but turned to terrible pain on the entire left side of my body and muscle spasms, even in my face. I wanted to run but he said he was scared for me to exercise.

After a couple of weeks, I decided to try to run because it had always seemed to help everything else in the past and I was convinced it would help me. I immediately fell when my left leg hit the ground because I did not have good proprioception anymore. I went to the treadmill and held on with both hands and made myself run. I could only do 10 minutes before I was exhausted. I didn’t care, I kept doing some every day. I started trying to swim and bike as well. I realized I could not swim straight anymore. I kept working at it.

I signed up for an Olympic distance triathlon. I was the last one out of the lake and got penalized for going out of bounds several times because I could not swim straight. The people in the kayaks kept asking if I needed help but I didn’t want help. I finished and I was 15th from last place. It was a horrible time but I didn’t care because to me it was a great triumph that I could even do it. After that, I focused more on running and kept entering half marathons. I had terrible times but I just tried to be thankful that I could be out there.

Next, I decided to try a half Ironman. I trained hard and felt great. I was still slower than I wanted but felt alive and good about my running. Then one day, 2 weeks before the race I tripped while out on an 11 mile run and tore my left hamstring. Everyone told me to stay out of the race or at least not do the run, but I was determined. I couldn’t stand on the bike and I had to do a shuffling run so it took me forever to finish (8 hours), but I did it and I didn’t quit so I felt happy with myself. This inspired me to run more and to maybe consider another marathon. I just wanted to know if my body could do it. I signed up for the lottery for the New York Marathon and got in.

While training for the NYC marathon I went into the woods to relieve myself while on a run and there was a huge snake beside me. It scared me and I jumped out of the woods and landed wrong on my foot. I knew something was wrong because I could not run the two miles back to the car and my husband had to help me limp back. I had a partial tear of my Achilles on the left. I could only wear shoes with a heel on them because my Achilles hurt too bad to be flat. I began rehabbing as soon as I could. Just when I could start running again I was trying to make a patient laugh and did a stupid dance and landed on the left foot funny and tore the plantar fascia off the heel. The pain was incredibly intense. I was back to a boot and even crutches at first. NY was 22 weeks away. I had to take the next 10 weeks off running. I had 12 weeks to train and I had to go very slow due to the previous injuries.

I ran NYC with pain but I did it and felt so alive. I didn’t care that it was a slow time, I was just happy to know my body could go the distance. I had a good chunk of time without injury since the NYC marathon and began running a few more marathons and half marathons. I did not really push myself and did run/walk because I became afraid of hurting something if I really pushed it and I figured I would rather still be running even if it was slow then not running at all because I was injured.

Running has always been there for me. Every time I think I am getting sick the first thing I do is go run and I always feel better. Running has always been the thing that saves me. It is the one thing that has gotten me through all of these trials. It gets me through everything. When they called me to tell me my grandmother died, my husband said, “Are you going to run?” I went out and ran until I felt better (2 hours). I have gone from my fastest mile being 5:35 to it being 12:00 minutes some years. It has been hard being slower but running has always been the one thing I can count on to bring me through anything. So, as you can see, running has saved me. I hope now to begin pushing myself again and see what I can do. I may not be the weight I want to be and I may not be as fast as I want to be, but I am still out there!



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