Running may be an individual endeavor, but in order to attain longevity in this sport, one needs to assemble a strong team.
As runners, we think we're invincible, but we're not. Sadly, we're as susceptible to the twin killers of cancer and heredary heart disease as the next guy.
The head coach of your team needs to be your family doctor, and you need to visit him or her once a year, even if it's just for a chat.
It's important to choose the coach of your team carefully. The coach needs to really know you, how crazy you are, and how much running means to you. He knows that simply telling you to "Take time off," without offering you a logical explanation, simply won't do.
My family doctor, George Heffner, is a 4-hour marathon runner, who participates in many local races.He is tremendous human being and a fine doctor. At my annual check up in October, he glanced at my chart while he was outside the door and exclaimed. "Good! He's in a different age group now."
How can you NOT love a doctor who says that?
My dentist competes in local races. My podiatrist is a competitive cyclist. My physical therapist is an ex-collegiate football player, who, at age 60, is an avid weightlifter. Even my urologist is a competitive tennis player, who runs regularly.
Jason and Jennifer Burgess are my chiropractors, major members of my team. Back issues have nagged me for years. Jason, who graces the cover of my book, "Personal Best," and his wife, Jennifer, who is featured in the book are excellent runners. Jennifer is a veteran of the Boston Marathon.
Back to my family doctor.
After a few years of persuasion, Dr. Heffner finally convinced me that, at my age, I should have already had a colonoscopy. (don't worry, it's not going to get gross here)
As I lie in the bed before the procedure, a nurse takes my pulse. Soon, I'm surrounded by several nurses. (no priests however)
It seems as though my near-death, low pulse rate alarmed them. My wife quickly reminded them, before they brought out the heart paddles, that I was a long distance runner, and that my resting pulse rate was in the forties.
Always make sure, if you require a procedure that involves an anesthetic, that you inform the staff that you are a distance runner, and that you are in hellish shape.
Rely on the coaching staff of your team. We are NOT invincible. Err on the side of caution, and visit a health care for preventive care, or when you feel something isn't right.
By doing so, you can remain a runner for a very long time.