Taking it on the Chin, but the Streak is Still Alive

11/29/2017 - 18:56

By Scott Ludwig

When people find out I’ve run every day since the fall of 1978 they ultimately ask about my health. The questions fall into two categories: Illness and health. ‘How do you run when you’re sick?’ ‘Haven’t you ever been injured?’

I’ll admit to being too dumb to concede when I am truly too sick to run. I guess it’s because once I get out there on the asphalt whatever is ailing me takes a back seat to the satisfaction and enjoyment running brings me, so the chest cold, flu or whooping cough will just have to wait ‘til I’m finished running. (It does. Germs have patience.)

I’ll also admit to being too dumb to realize when an injury should keep me on the couch. While I’m asked about my knees (they’re both fine), my feet (also fine, although I haven’t seen all ten of my toenails at one time in decades) and my back (still hanging in there), most people are surprised to find out which part of my body has given me the most trouble.

Believe it or not, the part of my body that has taken the worst beating as a direct result of my running has been … my chin.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I bump into traffic signs in the dark or run into the backs of cars stopped at red lights. At least not yet.

Allow me to explain…

Injury # 1:

At the beginning of 2006 I participated in a 100-day weight loss contest at work. The winner would be determined by the highest percentage of body weight lost during the contest. I won the contest by losing slightly more than 12% of mine, but it came at a price.

In the midst of the 100-day competition I ran the Callaway Gardens Marathon. After the race two friends and I stopped at a Waffle House for a late breakfast. As I sat in the booth I started feeling woozy, so after a couple of bites I excused myself from the table so I could lie down in the car while the others finished eating. As I was heading to the exit I momentarily lost consciousness and fell face-first into the front of the jukebox, striking my chin on the way to the ground. I woke up moments later — flat on my back to the wide-eyed looks of my two friends, the waitress and the cook, all wondering if there was a need to call an ambulance. (There wasn’t.)

Apparently that was my body’s way of telling me that eating a Twinkie or two might be a good idea, especially if I was going to continue running 26.2 miles at a time. (Later that year I ran the 100 miles of the Western States Endurance Run at the same weight I tipped the scales at when I was 13 years old. I didn’t injure my chin, but I did an admirable job of shredding the bottoms of both feet. You might want to pencil that in as the second-most injured part of my body: My feet.) The experience taught me two valuable lessons: (1) Maintain the calories you need to keep your body functional, and (2) stay away from Waffle House. (Yes, I realize these contradict one another.)

Injury # 2:

Since March of 2000 — at the 20-mile mark of the Shamrock Marathon to be exact — I’ve had a problem with my right leg. Something ‘popped’ in my thigh that day and since then my entire right leg has never been the same.

Random and varying numbness, slow turnover, limited lift — some of the things I’ve noticed about my right leg since that fateful day over 17 years ago. From a performance perspective, it’s taken a toll on whatever speed I used to have. From a psychological perspective, I’ve come to grips with it. From an injury perspective, well that’s still a work in progress.

One morning in the fall of 2006 (as you’ll soon find out, this was not one of my better years) my right foot caught something I didn’t see during a run. (I think it was a rock, but it might have been a twig. Remember, the lift of my right leg wasn’t anything to write home about.) As I fell I put my hands in front of my face as I crashed to the cold, hard asphalt. The good news: my face was unscathed. The bad news: I landed squarely on my pelvic bone, specifically where the bones protrude slightly on either side of your body just below the waist. If you don’t already know let me be the one to tell you: There are lots of things that cause less pain than road rash on your pelvic bone — kidney stones, migraine headaches and gout immediately come to mind.

So exactly one week later my right foot let me down once more, only this time it was a humongous crack in the sidewalk that took me down. It may not have been on the scale of the Grand Canyon, but it was certainly high enough that my right leg’s 1” vertical lift failed to provide enough clearance. As I fell, I instinctively put my hands in front of the part of my body that needed the most protection: No, not my face, but my ailing pelvic bone.

With one hand on both sides of my pelvis I managed to save my week-old road rash from further damage. However, my chin struck the concrete with a ‘thud.’ Flat on my back, I put my right hand to my chin and in a matter of seconds it was covered in blood. It didn’t take long to realize it was pouring out of a bowling ball-sized hole in the middle of my chin. I know it was bowling ball-sized because I was able to stick my thumb inside the opening, about ¼” past the knuckle…just like I did when I used to bowl.

I stood and began running back to the house—a good three miles—and as I did the blood sprayed all over the front of my white (of COURSE it had to be white) shirt. When I got back, I was hosed off, given a dry shirt and driven to the emergency room where I promptly received 12 stitches and was told not to shave until the stitches were removed in a month or so.

So now …

I haven’t passed out in over a decade. The bottoms of both feet are now completely healed. The stitches in my chin didn’t leave a scar.

And I still don’t have all ten of my toenails.

Nor have I bumped into a traffic sign in the dark or run into the back of a car stopped at a red light. But as long as the streak is alive, there is always that chance.

(Scott Ludwig is the founder of Darkside Running Club (.com). He lives in the Atlanta area and is the author of 11 books – 7 about running – and is working on others. Scott’s book “Running to Extremes: The Legendary Athletes of Ultra Running” is now available. It features stories on Ray Zahab, Dean Karnazes, Larry Macon, Mark Covert, Ed Ettinghausen, Mike Morton, Tim Twietmeyer, Ann Trason and seven other amazing athletes of long distance running. You can find it on Amazon and most major booksellers. The book is inspired by and dedicated to the enduring memory and legacy of Ted Corbitt. Scott can be reached at He also has a blog at where his books are available – or at any major online bookstore.)

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