10 years ago I had never heard of Hip Dysplasia in humans…only in dogs.
10 years ago, I was a runner…a marathon runner.
And then in January 2009, I was diagnosed with severe bi-lateral hip dysplasia. I had 12 degress cover on my left side and 15 degrees cover on my right. This meant that I was lucky enough to undergo bilateral Periacetabular Osteotomies(PAOs), LPAO on 20th May 2009 and RPAO on 28th October 2009. My RPAO was three days after I turned 47, and lucky me, I suffered a stress fracture (which was undiagnosed for 3 ½ months) which meant that my recovery was not as easy as with my LPAO. But being a stubborn old mule, I did not let this thwart my determination to walk the London Marathon in April 2010. I started training at 8 weeks post-op having ditched my crutches the day before, and completed it, with my husband, in just over 7 hours! Four weeks later, I managed to slip and cause a stress fracture to my Ischium on my left hip, which put me back on crutches for another 6 weeks.
Whilst this delayed my return to running, it did make me realise that whilst I had been okayed to run (three days prior to slipping!), I was actually not okay to run! I had huge muscle imbalances between my right and left leg, and I was weak generally overall. I wasn’t strong enough to run a few steps, let alone for an hour or more, and so, whilst on crutches for a third time in 12 months, I hatched a cunning plan! This plan was to rehab the hell out of my legs, so with the help of a great sports therapist and a personal trainer, I set about starting from scratch, doing teeny weeny exercises which irritated the hell out of me, but my personal trainer warned me that if I were to do anything other than what he had instructed me to do, he would ban me from the gym…and he meant it! So over a period of 9 months from August to April, I worked and I worked hard Four days a week. Week in, week out, until I felt strong enough to start running again – I was starting to go stir crazy in the gym! I ran my first 10k in the July of 2011. I was back, well, sort of…it was slow, but I was just so happy to be back out doing what made me happy. But there was still a lot of work to be done.
I continued going to the gym for the next 5 years, 4 x a week religiously. During this time, I decided it was time to do something a little crazy. I remembered my surgeon’s words on the day that I met him. My first words to him were “Don’t tell me that I won’t be able to run again”. “You will be able to run, just maybe no more marathons” was his reply…I remember thinking to myself he said “maybe”…he didn’t say definitely! And so with that memory in my head I signed up and ran my first post-op marathon on the island of Jersey in October 2013. And then the ball started rolling. Next up came my first trail marathon and my biggest challenge to date – Glencoe marathon in 2015. There is a mile of climb on this marathon and the terrain is harsh, so it was a pretty big challenge for me, as just prior to signing up I had had to see my surgeon as I was having some issues with my hip flexors. He warned me off doing hills! Oops! So I was pretty stoked to complete it. My hips had been well and truly tested and came out singing! A massive grin factor! Then came 2017and I managed to secure a London Marathon place. I was finally fulfilling my dream of running the London Marathon again – and to say I was emotional is an understatement. London Marathon holds a very special place in my heart and is one of the “have to’s” in my mind. London is hard though for me, as it is pretty flat, all road, and my hip muscles do not like it. By 17 miles my hip flexors were screaming at me to stop…oh, no, not till that medal is in my hands!
I rather randomly followed up the London Marathon with The Dorchester Marathon, an inaugural marathon which was being held just 5 weeks later – not something that I would normally do, but I had never run an inaugural marathon before and went for it! My hips, yet again, did me proud! This route, although on road, was undulating – a much better mix for me as this breaks up the position of the leg muscles when running. So, no screaming hip flexors this time! I also found that a run/walk/run mix worked well for the last 9 miles and my legs were pretty good the day after.
When I was diagnosed, my surgeon told me that it would be between 5 and 10 years before I would need a hip replacement…so I have, over the past 7 years, been back to see my surgeon every 2 years for a check-up. So far, so good! The last time I saw him, two years ago, he was really happy saying to keep doing whatever it was that I am doing as it’s all looking really good and that there was no difference between that days x-rays and the x-rays taken two years prior. Happy days! I don’t think he totally agrees with what I get up to as apparently he raises his eyebrows when my name is mentioned, lol, but I did warn him that I would test his surgery well and truly, and that he might rue the day that he ever met me, so he was warned!!! (Hi Johan! Just in case you read this.)
I should be going to see him about now, but I have malice aforethought going on…it will be my 10 year hippiversary next year and I want to celebrate my hips achievements. So ULTRATHON here I come! I have entered one which is 37 miles long, and is local to me, so I can train on the terrain – it is a mix of trail and a little bit of road. It is in April, so pretty much exactly 10 years from my LPAO, and it is a distance that I have confidence of completing. I would love to do a 50 miler but I need to make sure I can get to 37 first! I then plan go see my surgeon and make sure the hips are still ok.
I think what I have learned from my detour down Hip Dysplasia Avenue, is that I am a lot stronger inside than I ever realized. I am very much more determined than I ever realized, and I am very goal driven. Through my diagnosis I have gained friends that I would never have had, and I am involved in a community of the most supportive people I could ever wish to know. When I was a Torchbearer for the 2012 Olympics, I was asked to think of a motto that summed me up. “Inspiration from others, determination from within”. I am inspired by the likes of Nancy Muir, whose achievement of completing the Bear 100 just blew my mind! She absolutely rocks! I am also inspired by those who are worse off than myself but who always have smiles on their faces and live life to the full.
Running is a gift, as even walking is not a given. I won’t wrap myself in cotton wool, but I do respect what my surgeon has achieved for me and I do my best to maintain healthy hips without stopping doing what I love.
To read about Annick Olympic Torch Experience: Click Here