ESSAY--"You'll never run again." Oh, yeah? Just watch me.

The End
At finish, 2017 Philly Marathon
(8-18) The 2017 Philadelphia Marathon had epic weather but not the good kind.  Gale-force winds, branches strewn across the course, torrential rain and mud like running through a pigsty. I should have been angry at the marathon Gods for unleashing their fury and making us runners slug it out. But no! To the contrary, I loved it, danced through it, laughed and smiled through it.

More than anything I regaled in the fact that I was running my comeback marathon after a lonely, depressing, three and a half years of an injury that would not cease. It was a great day for me, knowing that my dreams had come true. I felt overwhelmed by the spectators’ encouraging cheers for every runner. As a bonus, I qualified for Boston (my secret goal) and placed first in my age group (F65-69). No doubt about it: This was my greatest running accomplishment in 50 years of running. And it wasn't ever supposed to happen!

The Beginning:
I started running in 1968 in my town of River Edge, NJ, in my Keds along the streets and football field when I was in high school. I was the least athletic person, but had a lot of misplaced energy. This was before Title IX, when girls weren’t supposed to run. Shopping at a mall did not count as a sport! 

When I was in college at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), my roommate gave me a pair of her worn out Nike Waffle Trainers and I ran around the streets of Providence and the Brown soccer field. It was the Prefontaine era and I embraced it. When I moved to New York City, a friend took me to several Millrose Games, and I knew that running would be my life long passion. In New York, I ran around the reservoir in Central Park and bought my first running shoes – men’s Brooks, as it was difficult to find women’s running shoes.

I volunteered for eight years at the finish line of the New York City Marathon and got to see Bill Rodgers and Miki Gorman up close along with Salazar, and Dixon, Shorter, Grete, all the legends. My first race was the Mini Marathon in 1982. I ate an outrageously full breakfast with my friend because I told her we needed extra nutrition! 

In 1984 I enrolled in NYRR classes and learned how to run properly. Running enriched my life immeasurably, making me physically and emotionally stronger and fearless. I am a designer by profession and it has helped me think clearer in a creative process. For 50 years, running has been my closest friend.

Amy Bahrt, fashion designer 

The Middle
I was excited to be at the start of the 2014 Boston Marathon (my 7th Boston), and thrilled because it wasn’t freezing, raining, or unbearably hot. I had the usual anxieties about keeping it together for 26.2 miles, and hoping to finish horizontally, which I accomplished. But the next day I couldn't walk. This wasn't the usual tightness or muscle aches. My knee actually locked up. I thought this might be curtains for my running.

I saw an orthopedist who diagnosed me with full-blown osteoarthritis and told me I’d never do more than two or three miles again.  He brought attention to my age (over 60) and gender (female), which was not cool. Shame on him. He suggested Synvisc shots to my knee, a series of three shots, one week apart. The shots were painful and didn’t work. My frustration and anxiety got worse when he told me there was nothing more he could do. How could I have run Boston, trained all those miles without much pain, and two days later not be able to walk? I felt like I was in an alternative universe.  

I started PT, which went nowhere, mainly because the therapist could never remember which knee was bad! I found a new PT who specialized in knees. She was terrific, and a runner herself. She asked me my goals, and gradually got me back to running a mile every other day.

But my knee never felt right, and it would swell and ache. I couldn’t do more if I tried. At this point, I was really discouraged, and questioned if I would ever run again. 
I began cross training with weights, deep water running and Pilates. This took away the boredom of rehab, and I actually got stronger. To this day, I am still diligent with my cross-training routine. Doing low mileage runs every other day also seemed to work. My knee was still swollen, but I never once abandoned my hopes of running a marathon again.

I worked up to 10 miles, but then hit a plateau. after two years I felt like I had reached a plateau. I found a new orthopedist--a runner himself, so he understood me--and he suggested Orthovisc, a hydraulic solution that was stronger than my previous shots. When I asked about running a marathon again, he gave me some interesting advice: You won't know if you don't try, and by trying, you'll find out.

The new shots worked. I was never totally pain free, but I wasn’t damaging what I already had. After three and a half years (which felt like 100) of faithful PT, injections and a gradual increase in mileage, I reached 35 miles a week leading up to my fall 2017 marathon comeback attempt. That was less than my former 50 to 55, but I was happy with it.

I chose the Philly Marathon so I would be mostly anonymous. If I dropped out, none of my New York friends would know. It was a great day for me, knowing that my comeback dreams had come true.

The Emotional Toll of Injury
It’s difficult to choose which was harder: the physical lack of running or the emotional part of feeling alienated from my sport. I got sick of hearing, "Oh, you’ll find something else. Running isn’t everything. You can spend your free time doing other things.” Or, “At your age, you probably shouldn’t be running anyway." 

Those kinds of comments made everything 100 times worse.  I was fortunate to have some wonderful non-judgmental friends through my injury period. I appreciated that they did not baby me or give me armchair advice. I simply had to find my way to turn “No you can’t” into “Yes I can.”

First Marathon, NYC, 1985
Now I have learned to be thankful for where I’m at in this stage of life (67). I'm back to running; and I appreciate where I’m headed. I always loved the competition. My running and my race expectations have changed, but I'll never give up trying my best. That's just the person I am.

My Advice on Aging
This fall, I hope to run the 2018 New York City Marathon having missed it for five long years due to my painful knee. Next spring, I will come full circle and stand on the starting line of the 2019 Boston Marathon--a little more weathered, but a lot more grateful and humbled.  

I am not the same runner/person I was when I started in 1968. Growing old does slow down our bodies, and injuries don’t heal quickly, if ever. That’s just the way it is. But along with aging comes wisdom and experience, if we heed them. I will never stop thanking my lucky stars that I can continue running, just at a different level. The PRs I had in the past are great memories, but I look forward to new memories and challenges, especially since I was told I would never run again. I still love the competition, even if it’s mainly with myself. --Amy Bahrt, New York

PROFILE--Kenneth Williams has been running for 41 years

Wet? A bit grim? Must be Boston 2018.
(8-18) Hi, I’m Kenneth Williams, from Corinth, MS.  I live in the small town where I was born, within six blocks of the house I grew up in. I have four children and 15 grandchildren, some adopted, some natural, all loved.  Family is important to me.  Our family has been in the same business (Coca-Cola bottler/distributor) for 111 years, and I’ve been with the company for half that time.  I serve as President and CEO.  We believe in working hard and long and giving back to the communities where we live.

Started running:  I began running on Nov. 2, 1977. I’m 76, born in September, 1941 almost 77.

Why did you start running?
I went on an international trip in October of 1977.  One of my new friends on the trip had done a very unusual and interesting thing:  He had run a MARATHON!  I couldn’t comprehend 26 miles of running.  Never having run, I didn’t think it possible.  No one in our small city was a runner. But I decided it might be a