Comeback Kid: #9 in a Series


When Laurie, an avid marathoner turned 40, she had a gut feeling to stay in bed. Or as she put it, “A freaky premonition that all hell would break loose if I left the house.” She told her husband Robert, “No need to make a big deal out of this one. I don’t need a big party.” How could he deny her a big celebration for her big 4-0? He flew Paige in from Seattle for the occasion – her best friend and bad influence. Paige has a way of lighting up a room with her energy the moment she walks in.

That night, they hit an Irish pub to celebrate. There was a band playing, but no one was dancing. “We thought we’d do the band a favor and get the crowd going. So we started river dancing, very badly,” Laurie explained, “We did some kicks. I did a very high kick and hit some sort of big, heavy barstool. I didn’t feel any pain until my foot came down and my ankle gave out on me.” By then, she wished she drank more beers to mask the pain.

“Paige and my husband picked me up and put me in a chair. Then my foot swelled up so much that they picked me up and put me in a cab,” she recalled. Her good friend, Melissa, an emergency room nurse came by in the middle of the night to look at her foot and declared, “That thing is broken!”

She went to the emergency room for the official diagnosis. Laurie had shattered her fourth metatarsal and broken her fifth metatarsal. Hours later, she arrived home on Vicodin and crutches with a cast. That’s when she discovered that the party had just begun. Literally. Her husband had spent the past few weeks planning a surprise party at a local bowling alley. He had invited 50 friends, some of whom had flown in for the event. He rented out a local bowling alley and karaoke machine. He had it catered by a soul food restaurant. He even had a funky bowling shirt custom-made with her name on it.

“I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, but I had to make an appearance,” she said with a laugh, “I could barely see straight and was trying so hard to look normal. Somehow, I pulled it off. “ Then they told her, “Before you leave, you’ve gotta bowl first!” “I took one of those balls, hopped on my left foot and just let it fly. I knocked all the pins down – the only time I’ve ever bowled in my life!” she said.

Three days later, she had surgery on Halloween. “It was cool because the nurses were dressed like ghouls at this surgery center,” she added. Her doctor discovered a large hematoma, removed it, and then inserted a plate with four screws.

After spending three weeks on the couch with her leg elevated on pain medication, she was finally cleared to go in the pool. She immediately contracted an infection in her foot, which lead to a high fever and streaks traveling up her leg. Her doctor was shocked and immediately gave her a shot of penicillin and a prescription for several antibiotics. He took a culture, which revealed that she had contracted e-coli and strep in her foot. “I was almost hospitalized on Thanksgiving, but thankfully the meds worked right away,” she recalled.

Laurie spent the next five months focusing on healing and rehabilitation. She went to Sunset Physical Therapy three times a week. She worked out at the gym on the bike and the elliptical trainer. She practiced balance exercises and stretched regularly at home. The whole time she was determined to prove that she would still be a strong runner.

And when the time came to enter a race, she chose one that seemed quite fitting – Mount Disappointment. “I picked that one because I had been so disappointed with myself for getting injured!” she quipped with her rare sense of humor, “It was a 50K ultra-marathon. It was my first ultra-marathon.”

Coach Beth had prepared Laurie well for the 31-mile race. It was a hot, hilly, hard trail run at an altitude of 6,000 feet. At the 23-mile mark, she had a special snack waiting for her. The daughter of Scottish/Norwegian parents and a fisherman decided a tuna fish sandwich would probably hit the spot about then. She quickly opened a packet of tuna, smeared it on a slice of bread and bolted out of the last aid station.

“I felt the power of the tuna. The protein completely revitalized me. I ran with the sandwich in hand and tuna flying out of my mouth as I breathed,” she recalled. “People asked me ‘What are you eating?’ I was amazed at how grossed out they were. The said, "Ooooh groossss’ when I yelled back. ‘It’s a tuna sandwich!’” Yes, Laurie is convinced that Gu gel has nothing on a tuna sandwich. Who can argue with her choice of nutrition when she had such a great race?

“I remember running it and passing my two friends from Runner’s High who run 3-hour marathons,” she recounted, “I remember talking to important people in my life who passed away – my dad, my grandmother – feeling very thankful that I could run again and asking them to help me. It was a very spiritual and cool run.”

Her running since the injury has changed. “I’m a different kind of runner now – more of an endurance runner than a speedster,” she explained, “I’m a little older, a little heavier, but I am happier. And who knows? Maybe I will get faster.”

NOTE: If you have a good comeback story, please contact me at sixtwothreetries@gmail.com. I’d like to interview you. I hope this will be one of many Comeback Kid stories. Here’s why.