“The way things are looking right now,
I may be a spectator rather than a participant
for the first time at this year’s Fall 50.”


Following a broken arm during a 50k trail race on May 30 and some rehab, I was able to start running in earnest the first week of July. I was ecstatic to be able run 7 miles on 7-7, my birthday, a tradition since 1981, a year after I began running on that day in 1980.


Then I began experiencing severe inflammation in my hand. With lots of icing, massage and other methods, it finally subsided. Since then, however the inflammation has moved to different joints which eventually sent me to Urgent Care, a number of doctors, a chiropractor and two massage therapists. I was even on an electrical stimulation unit for 72 hours straight, receiving needle-like pricks to my muscles. Nothing resolved my problems. I began sleeping 12 hours per night, getting up for breakfast and going back to bed and sleeping till supper time. Not the sleep patterns of an ultrarunner!


A lot of people suggested it might be Lyme’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid, Celiac disease, and other ailments. Desperate, I asked for blood tests and the doctor agreed. The diagnosis given was a viral infection affecting the immune system, which meant my body was fighting the synovial fluids surrounding my joints, erroneously looking at them as the bad guys. They put me on heavy medications which they hope will eventually cure this infection.


Today, my wife bought me a walker so I can support myself, as both my feet and ankles have been rendered useless and painful. The way things are looking right now, I may be a spectator rather than a participant for the first time at this year’s Fall 50.


Sometimes stepping back affords us opportunities for a different perspective. Although I may not be able to run this year’s race, I can “experience it” from the other side of the fence. I can observe the effectiveness of the race staff and volunteers. I can revel in the fun and camaraderie of the relay runners. I can interact with the merchants in the small towns from Gill’s Rock to Sturgeon Bay. I can tell them and others about the inspiring stories carried by each of the thousands of runners passing by.


So what is the lesson here? My current predicament shows the importance of remaining tough mentally as well as physically. Any runner knows the importance of remaining physically strong during a race. When we are sidelined by circumstances outside of our control, however, we learn the importance of remaining strong mentally and maintaining a positive outlook.


In my life, I am currently in the midst of a “bad race” that will run its course and soon be forgotten. When I get back out on the roads, I will remember the strength it took to get through this period of dormancy and it will help me work through other roadblocks.


So when I stop for a relaxing cup of coffee in Fish Creek or Egg Harbor on October 24th—something I would never do as a participant during a race—I will maintain a positive attitude by thinking of all of you and applauding your efforts.


See you in a few miles….ROY PIRRUNG


Roy Pirrung is a highly accomplished ultrarunners and lives in Kohler, Wisconsin.  You can email him at [email protected]