Who is the toughest runner you know?

The toughest runner I know is not the fastest runner I know.  I will define toughness as “having sheer will that nothing or nobody can interfere with.”

This runner once ran the Marine Corps Marathon with a broken toe.   She once ran the Wilkes-Barre Half Marathon with torn back muscles.   Yet that was nothing compared to what she faced before her marathon running days.

In October 2003, she was hospitalized with a serious skin infection.  At first, the doctors thought she had Necrotizing Fasciitis, better known as the “skin eating disease.”  For days, nobody knew if she would survive.  Doctors debated on whether or not they would have to perform surgery, including severing her arm to contain the disease.   Fortunately, she ended up having a Strep A infection instead, still a very serious infection, but treatable with a long course of antibiotics.   Nine long days later she was able to leave the hospital.

For weeks, she was on IV antibiotics, along with physical therapy.   It was months before she was able to run again.   Slowly but surely, she got back into it. Bear in mind, she had never run a marathon up until this point.

Eight months after her hospitalization, she signed up for her first: the Steamtown Marathon, which coincided with the one-year anniversary of her discharge from the hospital.  It would be a symbolic benchmark to her recovery.   Those who love her were a bit worried since her immune system was just getting back to speed.   Since it was her first marathon, her goal was simply to finish, and finish she did in a time of 4:43.   It wasn’t a world record time, but she had the time of her life.  More importantly, she still had HER life.

You would think that the story would end there, and cue the Hollywood movie credits.   However, in 2010, she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease in which white blood cells attack the moisture producing glands.   Symptoms include dry eyes, dry mouth, hair loss, fatigue, and, for some, joint pain.   You might recall that tennis star Venus Williams was diagnosed with the same illness.  The symptoms of Sjogren’s are annoying but she is learning to live with them.   It has not slowed or stopped her from running.

This fall, she will be running the Philadelphia Marathon, her twelfth marathon, and her goal this time is to qualify for Boston.  She is not one to shy away once she has a specific goal in mind.   She might not qualify, but I wouldn’t bet against her.   After all, this is the same woman who not only got up and finished after falling during the Disney Marathon, but she also beat death.

That is toughness.  Oh, and the runner?  My wife.

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