A Good Year

I did a relaxed 7-miler yesterday. Last run of 2013 and as I scanned my training log, it dawned on me that it was the first year in ages that I didn’t have a major injury. My mileage showed it: I logged 1606.35 miles in 2013, my highest mileage year. In 2012 I only eked out 934 miles, but that was my year of stress fractures (femur, second metatarsal and calcaneus). Much as I’d like to think it was wisdom that kept me from getting injured this year, I’m not ready to make that claim. A couple of things DID help, though: 1) more slow runs on soft surfaces, 2) more strength training, and 3) the parathyroid surgery I had a few years ago.

Women of a “certain age” should know about parathyroid disease because it can go undetected for years. In my case, I had come back to New York after having spent three months working in Zanzibar. The work was stressful, my diet was mostly rice, papaya and octopus. And I was having trouble running. The 100% humidity and incessant heat didn’t help. I had been training for the 2009 New York Marathon (quite an oddity in that part of the world, where daily life is taxing enough without adding extra 20-mile runs). And I seemed to be getting weaker rather than stronger. My legs ached; I was depressed; I didn’t feel great but couldn’t really put my finger on what was wrong.

I went to see my GP. He gave me blood tests and reported back that I had vitamin D deficiency and higher than usual blood calcium. No particular cause for worry, he said. He told me to start taking higher doses of Vitamin D. Seemed odd that I would need extra vitamin D while living and working within a few miles of the equator. I happened to mention the diagnosis to my oldest, dearest friend, Annie, a GYN in Philly. She said to get my parathyroid checked. Of course, I’d never heard of a parathyroid, much less the disease. She said the shorthand for the symptoms was: “bones, stones, moans and groans” – in other words, bone pain, kidney stones, gastrointestinal “groans” and cognitive issues (moans).

My doctor refused; thought it was a waste of time. I fought to get the test, and ended up finding a new doctor. I had the surgery in early 2010, but by then I had lost 14% of my bone density compared to my first scan. The good news is a year after the surgery, my bone density had returned to pre-surgery levels. And now – three years later – I’ve made it through a year of running 5-6 days a week with no serious injuries.

One last credit for a year of healthy – and happy running: the wonderful New York running community. So Happy New Year – and heartfelt thanks to all my running friends, wherever you may be.