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Articles tagged #Larry Allen on Running
Today's Running News
I went out for a slow, difficult three mile run the evening prior to my pacemaker being implanted. My heart, although not functioning properly, was thankfully strong enough for that one last run without artificial help.
My friend, a nurse, probably saved my life by getting me into a walk-in clinic that next morning. Everything went fine and I am now running again but with a pacemaker (recent photo in NY Central Park).
Let me share some advice. There is a fine line between being tired or feeling weak from a hard workout or thinking maybe fatigue or weakness is “just” natural decline with age making things harder vs. something feeling “off” enough to seek help.
It’s a blurry line but I guess my best advice is to be keenly observant of your own physical traits and patterns and when anything falls outside of a normal range for you, again, see someone. I think it’s very important to understand that we aren’t “bullet proof” as runners.
I remember in the 70s Dr. George Sheehan wrote and in lectures said that we, as marathon runners, were essentially immune from having a heart attack. It wasn’t long after that Jim Fixx died of a sudden heart attack while running on an easy training run.
Almost every day when I run in Central Park in NYC I run right by the spot where Ryan Shey died suddenly of an undiagnosed cardiac condition early in the 2007 Olympic Trials Marathon, on a downhill section, it was a cool day and the pace early in the race was conservative (for him).
A friend, physician and Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon from Maine has a sad but growing list of lifelong runners from northern New England alone that have met similar fates without knowing they had a health issue.
We have to understand that even as very fit runners we are vulnerable, and that goes hand in hand with understanding the importance of listening to your body.We all have to be our own best advocate and our own best piece of medical monitoring equipment.
It’s easier with all of the new technologies however, as runners, we have intuitive ability that puts us in touch with our own bodies. We must listen carefully to all of it and also try to overcome another trait we have as runners, our stubbornness, which can certainly be our strength and our weakness at the same time.
Recovery has been tricky. After my pacemaker was functioning I was diagnosed with intermittent (paroxysmal) Afib which is treatable with medication. At first I didn’t quite understand that Afib progressively becomes more persistent or permanent and that treatment options become less effective or sometimes completely ineffective as it goes along.
I ran again for a bit over a year but my Afib was gradually getting worse and eventually the stronger medications needed weren’t easily tolerable. It got harder to run yet again. My remaining option was a cardiac ablation. After careful consideration I had it done early this past summer.
The good news is that my Afib has not reoccurred since. The bad news is that it’s a lengthy healing process. I am six months into it and have probably walked about 600 miles. I’ve gradually added short stints of jogging into my walks and only recently a few miles of continuous very slow running.
I’m told that it will take perhaps 3-5 months to fully heal and hopefully then I’ll be able to run more normally.
(Larry Allen on Running is a regular MBR feature sharing the wisdom of Larry Allen, a 50 year accomplished runner and artist. He is currently participating in the third Run The World Challenge.)(Thu 13) ⚡AMP
Full circle. I am becoming Fred Dingley. He was my first cross country coach at Lee Academy way back in 1969.
One late summer day a couple of years ago I headed for my usual early evening run at a favorite trail in Connecticut.
A welcome hint of fall was in the air. Dry, refreshing Canadian high pressure, breezes and gentle fall-like light had crept in for the first time in months, replacing the laser-bright sun and stifling humidity of a hot summer.
The trail I often run extends along the Pequonnock River Valley and the beautiful weather had it abuzz with happy runners, cyclists and walkers, a full house in the parking lot.
At the top of the short hill leading from the lot to the trailhead; 15 young men from a local high-school cross country team gathered, bare-chested, stretching against a rail fence.
The 14 year-old newbie kids tried not to be conspicuous in their very presence but also were clearly checking out their bigger, stronger and more confident 17-18 year-teammates. The older ones innocently full of themselves, utterly oblivious to the younger kids.
They all started running just before I shuffled up onto the trail. Within the first half mile I could already see the smaller, slower runners beginning to fall off the pace.
I caught the first kid soon after. For a minute I was back in the early fall of 1969. My first coach, yes Fred Dingley, was the headmaster of the school.
In his 60s, he ran with the team some days. I was 14, 4’9” and weighed maybe 90lbs. I lacked fitness, confidence or any knowledge whatsoever.
Mr. Dingley caught me a few times in my first few runs that September and always had a word of encouragement as he passed.
He made me feel like if he could run 2-3 miles at his age I damn well could, even when I seriously doubted it two steps prior to him passing and three steps after he went by.
Fred Dingley's teams were a perennial power in Maine. State Champions my first 2 years. My next coach, Howie Richard, led a team to my third championship in 4 years. I was fortunate.
Early that first September I ran my first timed mile in 6:55. I proudly made my way to the top of the Junior Varsity by the end of the year and ran a 5:06 mile.
I won a race the next year and I will never forget being congratulated by the headmaster-coach in the school’s morning announcements.
Mr. Dingley retired a year later and I've always hoped he kept running for years after.
40 odd years later, I ran past the slower runners in the first couple of miles on the trail and made a point of doing what my coach had done; offering a quiet word of encouragement to each kid.
I wondered whether seeing a man in his 60s running by might do for one of them what it did for me years before.
Meanwhile, I also remembered how Howie Richard coached me as as a more accomplished runner 3 years later; he said when passing someone, pick up the pace, go by with certainty and show no sign of exertion, he explained, only slightly in jest, that "it demoralizes them a little and gives you an edge".
Maybe I should regret those ingrained competitive instincts but at more than 4 times the age of most I passed I think I should get a pass (no pun intended) for any insensitivity, real or imagined. I did try offer encouragement but that's a different thing, right? Can you intimidate someone (a little), feel better about your own remaining ability and give encouragement all at the same time? I hope so.
I have no idea whether the team I saw in Connecticut that pre-season evening ended up a top team that year. I was impressed that most of the older kids ran the same 8 miles I did.
Based on those I passed, I remember wondering whether I might still be able to make the JV team of a HS team. In reality the dead sprint at the beginning of a 3mi high-school cross country race would be a big problem.
If I had any hope I’d have to use experience and wisdom (if any) to try and overcome my physical ability with a late charge from behind at the end. The real problem; the youngest and slowest kids I saw were all going to get much faster and stronger in coming months. I would not.
At just past age 60 I was still holding up ok. I could still manage 5-12 miles almost daily. A few longer runs crept below 8 minutes per mile, I even managed a 6:25 mile at the end of one good run. It all took a sudden turn with an unexpected health problem a short time after this particular evening.
Having successfully dealt with my issues I’m again able to run or run/walk for shorter distances on the trail weekly, slower but just as happily. I still see competitive runners and teams, maybe the same ones; a few looking like collegiate runners home for a visit, some likely former undeveloped youngsters but not so much anymore and of course always a new crop of nervous 14 year old prospects.
As for me, maybe I should just be happy being Fred Dingley.
(Editor’s note: Larry Allen on Running is a regular MBR feature sharing the wisdom of Larry Allen, a 50 year accomplished runner and artist. He is currently participating in the third Run The World Challenge.)(Sun 25) ⚡AMP