Today while I was at work I received a text from my mom. My dad, who has been suffering from back pain but has gotten much worse recently, saw a specialist in Chicago today. The news was not good. Per my mom (who is not a medical person), he has 2 crushed vertebrae, a bulging disc--basically a mess in his lower back. He will need surgery, which they were hoping to avoid, most likely a spinal fusion. It will be his second go round with back surgery.
My dad has had physical problems for quite a while. His first hip replacement was at age 55, twenty years ago. He had a spinal fusion about 10 years ago. The other hip replacement about 7 years ago. A knee replacement 3 years ago. All these surgeries were the result of severe degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis. A "normal" part of the aging process, although I do believe he's having it worse than most.
My motivation for staying in shape has changed over the years. When I was in my 30s, I ran to outrun anxiety and depression. In my 40s, I ran to help me cope with the stress of child rearing and a career. And wanting to keep up with my boys. Now, in my 50s? All of the above. But more importantly? I run to stave off the aging process.
Yep, I'm running from old age.
I look at my dad and see what could be. Is this my destiny? Or can I slow the inevitable process of getting old?
Apparently I can! Science backs me on this. A large study in 2013 demonstrated that running significantly reduced the incidence of osteoarthritis and the need for hip replacement surgery. This includes participation in marathons! The researchers thought this may be due in large part to the reduction in BMI. Another study investigated why runners get less knee osteoarthritis than non-runners. Something to do with peak load and hitting the ground...apparently running has no more impact on the knees than walking. Best of all is a study that found running 3 times per week prevents premature aging in every organ in the body. Of course, the study was done in mice so say what you will about that....
And then there was this awesome study that shows how exercise can reverse skin changes due to aging...I'm all over that! Although the mirror tells a different story...
Now my dad has always been active, but not an exerciser. He always carried a couple of extra pounds around his waist. I have no doubt that contributed to his back problems.
Ironically, when I told my parents that I was running another marathon this year, they were both very concerned. Worried that I was going to hurt myself.
More than my dad is hurting? I hope not.
So yeah, my big toe pain is probably some arthritis. My knees crackle like Rice Krispies when I walk down the stairs. But they don't hurt. The first joint in my right hand is sometimes swollen and tender. And I've got more gray hair than anyone except my colorist will know about. But as long as I can, I'm going to keep on moving.
This is my motivation now.