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On The Run Magazine

On The Run Magazine - Wellington Scottish Athletics

Running and walking magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics

Below are links to the latest On the Run articles. If you would like to contribute to the magazine or find out more about it, contact the editors Simon Keller and Stephen Day.

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Rescue, Recovery, Renewal: The Don Stevens Story

Scottish stalwart Don Stevens has been through a physical ordeal that most of us can barely imagine. Yet, through it all he has stayed positive and he has remained a runner. And, as he tells us in his article below, he has uncovered a secret trick for improvement over 5k.

Question: How do you take 18 minutes off your 5k time?

Answer: Easy. Mangle your leg and then complete a long, long rehab programme.

In April 2016, I fell while tramping. When I stopped tumbling, I applied my medical skills. Looking at the angle of my lower leg relative to the rest of my leg, I diagnosed a compound fracture to the tibia and fibula. I had a 6cm by 5cm open wound with the snapped tibia sticking out.

It was day two of a solo four-day tramp. I was rescued; that is a story in itself, which you can read about here - http://donstevens.co.nz/2016/not-beer-sausages-part-sixteen/. But in this article, I want to talk about a side benefit. I have made a huge improvement in my 5k time.

When I was first discharged from hospital, the words of the orthopaedic surgeon were encouraging: “You will be walking in weeks and in three months you will be back running.” How wrong he was. Due to a series of ongoing infections, a total of seven operations, the orthopaedic surgeon not taking into account the shredded muscles, and the movement and relocation of the tibia’s anterior during one operation, it has been a long road to recovery.

This photo is an x-ray of the leg when I first got to hospital.

And this one shows my leg three weeks after release from hospital: the first time they took bandages off.


At one hospital appointment I was told, “You are being admitted to hospital today, and we are operating today”. I was given four possible outcomes. Outcomes two and three involved cutting muscle and a loss of function, and the fourth was amputation. I tried to forget about the worst scenario and focus on the best. When I came out of the general anaesthetic, I very pleased to see that the leg was still attached, and that option one – the movement of my tibialis anterior – had been successfully carried out.

When I started physio, I could not stand independently. I could not raise my right heel off the ground while keeping my toes on the floor. But I was focused on my recovery and the physio said I was the most motivated client she was working with. If she asked me to do ten exercises every hour I did thirty or fifty. I was desperate to get the leg back working again.

After a few months I got rid of the crutches and the moonboot. The skin grafts were settling and I could finally walk unaided. As the strength in my leg and ankle grew, the physio taught me how to walk again. At first, walking a kilometre took me fifteen minutes.

I remember my son saying to me one day, “Do you think you will run again?” The question was unexpected, but my immediate response was, “If I think I won’t run, then I won’t run.”

Part of the retraining of the leg involved me entering the Waterfront 5k. In that first race back, I alternately walked for two minutes and ran – or at least hobbled a little faster – for 30 seconds. I was pleased to complete the race in 42 minutes. Over the following weeks and months, I got down to 35 minutes, 32 minutes, 30 minutes. Once I was in the twenties the rate of improvement slowed, but my times steadily continued to come down.

I remember being able to hop on my right foot for the first time. I had worked on this simple task with the physio for months. The first time I succeeded I probably only got 0.1mm off the floor, but it felt like a significant milestone.

There has been an ongoing slow but steady progression of improved times over 5k. In between there are daily exercises: heel-raises, walking the Birdwood steps multiple times most days, twice weekly and then weekly physio sessions, walking, and eventually running slowly from our Northland home.

Recently I completed the Lower Hutt Park Run in 24.23. I was very pleased with the result and I feel like I am running again. This is great for the mind and soul. The physio says my right leg has 60% of the power of my left leg. I still have a couple of holes in the muscle in my leg, big enough to poke your finger into. I am unsteady if I stand on just my right leg and the ankle still has some weakness. But I also know that 23 minutes is achievable for the 5k. That is my next goal.

Prior to the escapade I was a specialist back-of-the-pack runner. When I started the Waterfront 5k I was a well-behind-the-back-of-the-pack runner. As I have improved my times I can now see the back of pack again – what a great sight!

Eighteen minutes is a substantial gain. How did I achieve this? I consider the key elements are thinking positively, focusing on the short term goal, regular exercise and training, a good physio, support from Scottish teammates, and most importantly staying focused. Also, getting a severely injured leg played a big role. Without the injury, I would have had nothing to improve from.

It has been both a psychological and physical rehabilitation and I can’t wait for the 2019 harrier season.

 
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On the Run Print Archives

On The Run is our running and walking magazine packed with great information and inspiring articles. Check out the past issues if you have missed any.

2009 On The Run

Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics

2010 On The Run

Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics

2011 On The Run

Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics

2012 On The Run

Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics

2013 On The Run

 

2014 On The Run

Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics

2015 On The Run

PDF (1.5MB)- Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics PDF (6.7MB)- Running and Walking Magazine of Wellington Scottish Athletics