Christy Noel Hurley, Sports Medicine

​A RUNNER.
A HURDLE.
AN UNEXPECTED COACH.

​How my physician went the extra mile for me.

​​​If I were to offer my top three tips to anybody looking to get serious about running, I think they’d be: eat right, get new shoes and find a good doctor. The funny thing for me is that I needed to find the good doctor before I figured out the other two.

My experience with UW Medicine started when a series of sports-related foot injuries meant that I needed reconstructive foot surgery. Coincidentally, this was also the time I’d decided to take up running seriously (you’ll notice that my timing isn’t always stellar).

Knowing UW Medicine’s great reputation, I sought out an orthopedic surgeon who came highly recommended. He and his team did a fantastic job, and my foot feels terrific. And really, that seems amazing just in itself that I’m able to run 40 miles a week on a foot with pins in it and not have it bother me a bit.

Bravo to that team!

I’d been a casual runner for years, but in 2005 I started running a handful of 5Ks and 12Ks, nothing too crazy. Then I signed up for my first half marathon.

I should point out that I’m very good at following directions. But when it came to things like proper nutrition for endurance running and my technique, I didn’t yet know what I didn’t know.

With the pace of my training at a high point leading up to the event, it all caught up to me, and I developed painful shin splints.

This time I went to Dr. Harrast​​​ (UW Physician, Sports Medicine Center located at Husky Stadium), who also happens to be a competitive triathlete. So when it comes to the mindset of a competitive athlete, he gets it.

First thing he told me: I needed new shoes. I learned that runners pounding the pavement in worn-out shoes causes more problems than most people realize. Then he asked me about my nutrition (which wasn’t what it should be to fuel my body) and helped me build a dietary plan more appropriate for a runner.

But the damage was done, and I needed to swap the running for swimming until I healed. So I did. I also bought new shoes and started paying more attention to my diet. And there was another piece of advice that Dr. Harrast gave me: listen to your body.

When the half marathon came around, I ran it and ended up doing pretty well. And then I was hooked. Several more half marathons later, I set my sights on the next challenge: a full marathon.

Seattle is a tough city to run a marathon, with its many hills and other challenges. So I took my training seriously.

One night I decided to join a group run, which I seldom do. Running in ​the dark, I turned my ankle on a pinecone and was forced to run on it for a mile and a half until I could get back.

Well, “forced” might not be the right word. I chose to run on my injured ankle, which in hindsight perhaps wasn’t the best choice.

You see, I tend to be single-minded in my running, and I push through a lot of pain. So for me, this was just one more pain to push through. This was also a time when Dr. Harrast’s words “listen to your body” should have been ringing in my ears.

My ankle was in rough shape, and back in Dr. Harrast’s office I asked about the upcoming marathon and whether I should just forget it. No, he said. Take it easy for a while. Give it time to heal.

The last thing in the world I wanted to do was miss that event. And he knew it.

My ankle recovered, my training resumed and then, with the marathon right around the corner, I was back in his office with an overuse injury in my foot.

Miraculously, he got me in for an MRI that same day. With me on crutches, he connected me to a physical therapist he knew could get me back on the road as quickly as possible. She worked with me on my gait and running technique to help me take the strain off of the injury and prevent it from recurring.

But even so, my marathon was now in doubt. Even Dr. Harrast suggested that I might want to think about postponing it. There would be plenty more, he said. But I kept on with my recovery.

I soon realized that I looked to Dr. Harrast as much as my coach as my doctor. He helped me set appropriate goals, design a smarter training schedule, and kept me focused on my own health as much as my training.

And as the medical director for the Seattle Marathon, he knows what he’s talking about.

His focus was on helping me recover quickly and finish the marathon safely. But I had a secret objective — to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

To qualify, I needed to finish in 3:50. I crossed the finish line in 3:46.

At the end of the race, the first place I went was to the medical tent, where I gave Dr. Harrast the biggest hug. He said with a huge smile, “You did it!”

I did. Next stop, Boston.