Runner’s World May 2003
By Jeff Galloway
The Comeback Kids
These runners ran marathons after they thought they’d never
run again. Here are their stories.
I’ve been inspired by lots of world-class running comebacks
over the years. But I’ve been equally inspired by the running
comebacks by many everyday runners. Of the thousands of uplifting
stories I’ve heard, here are three that really stand out.
What makes them special is that they all involve runners who were
forced to give up running for a time, but found a way to run again-
and conquer the marathon. Here’s how they staged their comebacks.
WALK WHEN YOU CAN’T RUN
In high school, Cheryl Shakespeare competed in both the 400 and
800 meters. Shortly after that, Cheryl started to experience joint
pain, but she continued to run 5-Ks until the age of 32, when the
pain became unbearable. Thinking she had no other choice, Cheryl
Four years later, Cheryl was diagnosed with Lupus-an autoimmune
disease that attacks the connective tissue in the body. But this
Kansas City resident refused to stop exercising completely. Working
with her medical specialists, Cheryl devised a workout regime that
enabled her to start race-walking just 2 years later. She then began
a run/walk program. Cheryl has since completed three marathons,
with a personal record of 4:43:32.
Comeback keys: Cheryl’s big training breakthrough came when
she learned about the benefits of walk breaks. They allowed her
to ease back into running a couple of days a week with no pain.
The walk breaks helped Cheryl rise to the mental challenge of the
marathon. Instead of worrying about all 26.2 miles, she focused
on smaller segments of walking and running, and tackled each individually.
GO FOR THE RIGHT GOAL
Andy Kotulski was a streaker. No, not that kind of streaker. Andy
ran every day for more than 26-straight years. Then in September
of 2001, 2 days after finishing the Moscow Marathon, Andy was overcome
By the time Andy got back to New Jersey, he could barely move or
speak. Turns out he was battling double pneumonia and a number of
other complications that affected his heart and lungs. It took Andy
months to regain his health. Then he had to relearn how to walk,
and eventually, run. But on November 3, 2002, Andy crossed the finish
line of the Athens Marathon in Greece.
Comeback keys: Trying to maintain a running streak can be great
motivation, but you must listen to your body. Andy didn’t.
Instead, too many miles and races lowered Andy’s resistance
and left him vulnerable to illness. Once he was on the road to recovery,
Andy moderated his training in order to achieve optimal results
without pushing himself to the point of breakdown.
After Andy suffered his health crisis, he also learned how important
it is to have a long-term goal. While still in the hospital, Andy
asked is nurses to help him call the Athens Marathon organizers
to make sure he could use his 2001 entry in 2002. It was this goal
race that kept the running spirit alive for Andy even when he wasn’t
able to run.
FIND STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
When Fran Duarte was 18, she was diagnosed with severe curvature
of the spine. She was told that her only hope of avoiding a wheelchair
later in life was to have a steel rod inserted into her spine. Fran
declined, and instead, began exercising regularly. After she got
married, she started running with her husband and decided to train
for a marathon. Unfortunately, the terrible back pain returned,
and Fran was forced to stop running and put her marathon plans on
In an effort to stay connected to the sport, Fran joined a run/walk
group in her hometown of Greenville, SC. The support and training
advice Fran received from the group enabled her to return to running
stronger than ever. In addition to running marathons, Fran as completed
the challenging Pikes Peak Ascent in Colorado (a half-marathon climb
from 6,000 to 14,000 feet).
Comeback keys: Fran may not be running today if she hadn’t
discovered her group. Running groups offer motivational support,
an opportunity to train with others, and a treasure chest of running
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