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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Boston Marathon Decision- In or Out?

Boston Marathon Finisher Certificate
Everyone has a story, it’s what you make out of it. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can pick-up and use it as motivation.” – Esubalow Truneh

I got my Boston Marathon finisher certificate from the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A). last week.  It brought back lots of good memories.   It was an emotional day for me to come back and support the people of Boston after the 2013 bombing. It was a chance for some closure for both me and my guide Cheryl Kearney after being stopped just short of the finish line.

On race day we were all Boston Strong. The athletes took back the marathon for the cities along the route and the people of Boston.  Even though we could not undo the damage from the attack, we could run to show our support. We showed the world that even in the worst of circumstances you can react with grace, dignity and love.

 It is hard to imagine ever running a race with bigger crowds or ones that cheered more loudly than the fans did that day.  It truly is a special event and one I have been so proud to have run three times. I’ve stored memories to last a lifetime in my heart.

I had the best of my three Boston Marathon runs last year. My finishing time of 4 hr. 51 minutes does not really tell the whole story.  I finished 5th in the Mobility Impaired Division in a year when the number of participants was greatly expanded. My coach Heather Haviland had me so well prepared. Marathons are never easy and Boston is a tough course. Still my legs felt better in training, during the race and after than I have in years.  We completely changed how I was training and it paid off.  I laughed when I saw the race goal she set for me, but I hit it exactly.

So now I have a decision to make.  Do I return to run once again? My heart tells me yes, but my head tells me it may be time to make another decision.  There are many things to consider.
I love everything about the Boston Marathon.  The fans make you feel like an elite athlete. They cheer for you like you are the first person they’ve seen, even if they’ve been standing and cheering for hours. Whole families line up to cheer and hand out food and water to runners.

When people in Boston see you wearing your Boston jacket, they thank you for coming to the city and tell you they are glad you came.  Church ladies knit scarves in your honor and on race weekend give them to runners, wishing you courage and wrapping you in love.

The Boston and Paris marathons are the only marathon I know of with a Mobility Impaired Division.  If you provide medical proof of your condition and meet the strict time standard you are accepted. No humiliating assessment and being told I am too strong or not impaired enough.  

We are scored in our own division, allowed guides and have a separate packet pick-up.  We are treated like elite athletes.  It has been a chance to compete in one of the World’s premiere athletic events.  Even as mobility impaired athlete it is not easy to get into Boston. The six hour qualification time is tough for most athletes with CMT to achieve. I am 1 hour and 10 minutes under the qualifying time standard.  That means if I return I have a good chance of once again placing in the top three in the division. 

 It feels great to put on my Boston Marathon jacket. Running Boston means respect from other athletes.  It is a true achievement.

Running the event has been great for raising awareness of CMT.  Running this race has brought lots of media attention to our cause. That interest has come even in years when I was determined to run the race away from media attention. Participating in the Boston Marathon is something many runners dream of but never achieve, so the story of a physically challenged runner doing the event has been news worthy.
Running Boston has been great for fundraising as well.  My first year I raised $10,000 for CMT research.  My worry is my friends and family a getting a bit weary of me asking for money.

As hard as the training is, I really love the preparation.  I am at heart a long distance runner. I love the peace and quiet of my long runs.  I do them without music. It is a perfect time to reflect. I often think about my work and writing.   Some of my fondest memories are long runs on crisp fall days, my feet crunching fallen leaves or on freshly fallen snow. There is almost nothing more fun than doing a run as the snow is fallen or on freshly fallen snow. I try to get out before the walks are shoveled.  I can still remember my last long run before Boston was in Marquette Michigan.  There was six inches of fresh powder snow on the bike path.  I had a wonderful 16 mile along Lake Superior under sunny blue skies. Just the kind of day that makes me glad I’m a runner.

Training for a marathon takes time. It takes time away from projects like promoting my book, writing my blog and managing Team CMT.  I think sometimes that my time may be better spent doing something else.  Training takes time away from friends and family. Training for Boston would me once again giving up lots of other important opportunities to train.
Training for another Boston marathon means a constant fight against the injuries that will come during the training. Every time I’ve run Boston I’ve acquired chronic injuries to both my ankles. I have an injury to my right ankle that has not healed since my last Boston. Can I even get through the training to prepare for the race.

 Training for another Boston marathon means countless visits to the chiropractor, physical and massage therapists.   Do I want to put myself through that? Is my time and money better spent doing other things or preparing for other races?

I feel like I am standing at a fork in the road.  By April when the marathon takes place I will have qualified for the Paratriathlon National Championships and World Championship competitions in Duathlon and Aquathon.  I have to wonder if competing again in Boston will harm my performance in these events. My CMT is progressing and doing another marathon may not be a good idea. I may need to stop long distance running to be able to continue to compete in triathlon. I may need to stop doing marathons to be able to stay active at all. Both my coaches have told me to give up running marathons.  The marathon distance is hard even for perfectly healthy athletes, much less one with CMT.  Running a race on a hilly course like Boston really takes its toll.

If I don’t run Boston, I might never be able to return. I can use my qualifying time from last year’s race to run this one. If I don’t run that means running another marathon to qualify and then running Boston in the same year.  That is probably more than my body can handle. 

Less than 1 percent of Americans have ever run a marathon.  When you run the Boston marathon you are part of a very exclusive fraternity.  I am not sure I am quite ready to check out yet. It may take as much courage to decide not to run as it has to prepare and run my three Boston marathon races.
Registration opens on September 8th and I a lot to think about before then.  I know I want to stay as active as possible. I want to keep raising awareness of CMT and funds for CMT related programs and research.  Will there be another Boston Marathon in my future? Even I don’t know the answer yet.

One thing I do know for sure. I have a story to tell. My goal in running the Boston Marathon was to tell the story of those affected with CMT. I ran for those that can't run.    Whether I run Boston again or compete at a World Championship as a triathlete, I will do it to tell our story, because telling our story is the first step to treatments and a cure.

Author competing for Team USA at PATCO 2014

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a three time participant of the Boston Marathon.  She was the 2012 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division. In 2013 she qualified as a member of the Team USA Duathlon Team and was eligible to compete in 2014 at the Age Group World Duathlon Sprint Championship in Pontevedre Spain.  She chose instead to represent the U.S. as a paratriathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.

She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete.

You may visit her author page at:

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 152 members in 30 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site; or

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Additional Link
Follow CMT affected Paratriathlete Timmy Dixon

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