From Bad Knees To Running the Boston Marathon

Posted On May 15, 2014 By Tom Holland

Boston Marathon runner

I started working with Michael just after he turned fifty. Like many men his age, he had decided he wasn't where he wanted to be physically and was ready to make a change. His goals were simple and common: to lose weight, fix some nagging aches and pains, improve his flexibility and possibly even work up to running a few miles. His current fitness plan consisted of walking several miles several times per week – that was pretty much it.

So we started with the basics: strength training and stretching three times per week. Nothing fancy. Nothing exciting. The oftentimes boring base work that is essential in eliminating weak links, correcting imbalances and bulletproofing our bodies.

After many months of work focused on improving his total body strength and flexibility, we ventured outside for our first official run. It consisted of 60 seconds of slow jogging followed by four minutes of walking. We completed this progression for 30 minutes and were finished. Five actual minutes of running. Even this was extremely difficult for him.

As the months passed, we continued the strength and flexibility work, mixing in the occasional 30-minute run-walk together. Over time, I began to gradually increase his time spent running while decreasing his walk intervals. Ninety seconds running, 3-1/2 minutes walking. Two minutes running, 3 minutes walking.

Slowly but surely he began to improve his cardiovascular endurance, but as he did so his weak links were magnified and he began to experience many of the common running-related issues: Plantar fasciitis, chondromalacia patella syndrome, IT band syndrome. Yet he never gave up, he never used these inevitable issues as an excuse to stop. When a problem arose, we would identify it and immediately redesign his workouts to remedy the causes.

Soon he was running non-stop for 30 minutes, pain-free. Thirty minutes turned into 40, then 50. I then convinced Michael to enter local running races, again starting gradually, beginning with the 5Ks, then the 10Ks. Slow and steady.

Fast forward to today – over a decade since Michael set out to make a few simple health changes. Yes, he has lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off. His former aches and pains are gone, his flexibility is greatly improved and his blood test results are fantastic.

And, at 63 years young, the guy who couldn't run 1 minute without hyperventilating is now a top age-group marathon runner. He has run well over 100 races including two dozen half marathons and multiple marathons including New York, Paris and London. He is a Boston Marathon Qualifier, having run it three years in a row starting at age 60 and requalifying to run it in 2015 at age 64.

Oh yeah, and three weeks after running Boston this year? He and his wife Michelle will be biking across the United States.

Age is a number. Weak links can be fixed. Do the work, challenge yourself and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Believe in yourself.