Returning to Running

AJWs TaproomAs regular readers of this column know, six months ago I underwent hip resurfacing surgery under the skilled care of Dr. Thomas Gross in Columbia, South Carolina. Today, I am thrilled to report, that I have successfully returned to running and am preparing to run the Hardrock 100 in Colorado in just over four months. While this may sound foolish to some and perhaps reckless to others, I have a fair degree of confidence that I will be able to successfully finish the race. I will not make a final decision to run until June 1st, but as of now things are on track.

I must say, returning to running gradually over the past few weeks has been exhilarating. I certainly anticipated a few bumps in the road and there have been some. However, with each passing day, as I’ve slowly and deliberately increased my volume and intensity, I have been overcome with gratitude; gratitude for my surgeon, gratitude for the support of family and friends, and gratitude for the simple ability to put one foot in front of the other again.

Honestly, ten months ago when I received the end-stage arthritis diagnosis it hit me hard. With running so much a part of who I am, hearing that made me feel like I was losing a piece of my soul. Now, six months after my surgery, my soul feels more intact than it ever has, and each time I head out on the trails is a treat. I know, too, that this run up to a 100-mile race will be far different than any of the others I have had in my life. With a re-constructed hip I know that my running gate has changed and the way my body reacts to stress has been altered. That said, I am not sure I have ever been as motivated in my life. I am truly a new man!

Yesterday, I went out for a run. It was a stunningly beautiful day. I hopped onto my favorite trail system with no plan and just started to move. I listened to the birds, smelled the early spring flowers, and marveled at the late-afternoon sunlight peeking through the trees. It felt almost primal. As 30 minutes stretched to an hour I felt my pace increase, my breath relax, and my legs flow. For the first time in a long time, I felt the rest of my life slip away as running became not only what I did but who I was. In that moment, all was right with the world.

Honestly, today as I sit on the cusp of an unknown but exciting future, I am filled with wonder and hope. The way I feel today is the way I wish everyone could feel at least once in their lives. The arrival of spring here in Central Virginia only adds to the allure. Running, at once such a simple and complex thing, truly makes me whole. Almost losing it and then getting it back has been a gift that I may only realize years hence. And for now, it’s all about the training!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Avalanche Brewing CompanyThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Avalanche Brewing Company in Silverton, Colorado. A great little brewery tucked away in the corner of town, Avalanche makes a great smooth sipping summer beer called White-Out Wit. It’s a light tasting Belgian style varietal that goes down super easy. It will likely be one of the first beers I look for after kissing the rock in July!

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • What fond memories or feeling do you have of returning to running after a hiatus?

There are 3 comments

  1. Alex

    Great to hear your feeling good AJW.
    This reminds me of some of my favourite runs, just normal days when everything came together and felt perfect.
    I am also recovering from injury (nothing nearly as severe as hip surgery) and feeling totally fulfilled by the simple act of just been able to run for an hour.

  2. Lauren

    Congrats on the smooth recovery thus far. Having two hip surgeries myself my gait never quite feels like it did back when ultra running was new in my life (10 years ago). Every day I strive to improve my “new” gait whether its proprioceptive work, strengthening, or repetitive exercises that mimic running. I am sure there will come a time where I will just let this all go and accept this new, funny, abnormal feeling gait. But for now, 5 years from my first surgery, I am not ready to give up. It will come back even if my brain develops a new way of doing it. Don’t underestimate the power of proprioceptive work. You don’t realize how important balance exercises are until it’s too late.

    Cheers to you running again!

  3. Greg


    Really love your column, I read it every week.

    A wise runner once told me that my goal should always be the five mile run.

    He didn’t mean this literally, in fact many of my “five mile runs” have ranged between 2 and 20 miles. In the metaphorical sense, the 5 mile run is any run that feels effortless. It’s the run that releases endorphins and makes the stress of the day fall away. That run that makes you feel whole again and gives you a new and refreshed perspective on your current situation.

    Good luck training for Hardrock. I hope you have many more “five mile runs”. Remember what the true goal is as you continue on your path to Silverton.


  4. Tony Mollica

    I’m happy that your return to running has gone so well. I hope you have a great time at Hardfock!

    Tony Mollica

  5. William Read

    Congratulations on your return to running. I hope it goes well. I enjoy reading your column. Not sure I would be jumping into something as ambitious as hard rock so soon but I trust you know your body much better than anyone else and if it feels right then it is probably fine. Good luck at HR and look forward to seeing how it goes.

  6. Nelson Prater

    What a great column! Thank you! It was a little treat that I saved for my Monday afternoon. Gratitude is a great thing. Every time we are able to get out there and go for a run truly is a (and for me, probably undeserved) gift, and it’s nice to be able to send up a little thank you note every now and then. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through all of this to get back out there to doing what you love to do so much. I’m also thankful every day that I haven’t had that experience, yet.

  7. Bret Murphy

    Dear AJW

    I was happy to see you running this weekend and giving everyone such encouragement at the TJ 100 K. I wasn’t aware of your injury and it makes your comments at the race award breakfast all that more significant. Thank you for all you do. I plan to make the TJ 100 K an annual event.

  8. Derek

    That has been one of the best articles I have read in a while regarding coming back from an injury. I read often that people are pushing through a rehabilitation process followed by frustration.

    Your approach is so awesome and definitely is nice to read. The peace of mind related to running has become my reality and enjoy reading or hearing about people with similar mentalities is always appreciated. Good luck with rehabilitation and hopefully you will find yourself at the Hard Rock starting line!

  9. Chris Koehler

    You know me Andy. I am the XC at Fredericksburg Christian. I also recently had a hip surgery two years ago to remove bone growth that tore my labrum and wore my cartilage totally away. The doctor told me I would never run a marathon again. I told him I would prove him wrong. A year later, I ran Shamrock Marathon and qualified for Boston, which I will be running next month. As you know, I ran Holiday Lake 50k and Terrapin Mountain 50k in the last two months. So you are not crazy for returning to racing so soon. Either that, or I am crazy too and then misery loves company. One thing that definitely helped me was hitting the weight room religiously. The added leg strength has allowed me to withstand the constant pounding on my legs. However, one thing that I am still coming to grips with is that I will probably never be able to run the times I was running before the surgery. The doctor appears to be correct about that. I am still struggling to readjust my life running goals. I also am struggling with correcting a gait that has become severely shortened and fixing legs that feel constantly heavy. That said, I am as you are. Totally thrilled just to be running and competing again.

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