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Tips & Techniques to Get You Back to Full Strength

Running...The Journey and The Destination

Jill Ernst 
January 9, 2023

My name is Ryan Mains.  I’m a Dad, husband, medically retired firefighter/paramedic, Operation Iraqi Freedom vet, PTSD survivor, and recovering ultrarunner. I am most definitely not a writer so I pre-apologize for my horrific grammar and run on sentences. Ms Placke & Ms Reagan if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

I’ve been a runner since my enlistment in the Army in 1999.  Prior to that I wasn’t a big fan, but the Army doesn’t exactly offer a choice.  So I ran.  And it turns out, I didn’t hate it.  Once my enlistment was over and I came back home, I would enter in the occasional 5k or 10k.  I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8k a handful of times. Eventually I dipped my toe into half marathons and enjoyed those immensely, so the next step seemed to be the marathon.  I signed myself up for a local marathon and began training.  About 2 weeks out from my first marathon, I fractured my foot while on a training run.  No marathon for me that year.  I waited as patiently as one can when they’re waiting to heal.

Once my foot was healed I started again with 5k’s, 10k’s, and half marathon’s.  I built my confidence up to try and conquer the elusive marathon. So I started training.  Again.  About 2 weeks out, I found myself injured. Again.  This time with knee pain. That is when I knew it was time to get a professional involved.  So I went to Smith Physical Therapy + for help.  After some evaluations, Denise gave me some recommendations for an ortho to see. So off I went to find out what type of damage I had done to my knee.  I was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and surgery was recommended.  I was convinced my running days were over. Denise was confident I would run again, and frankly her confidence in me was contagious.  The SPT+ staff helped me recover post op. Once the rehab work was done we went to work on fixing my form.  With Denise’s help and the help of the Pose Method I learned to run more efficiently and 7 months after my surgery I completed my first 50k. I had decided while re-learning to run, that I was done attempting marathons, so naturally I was drawn to the next big thing. And that was trail running and ultramarathons.

Running became my outlet.  Having a bad day? Go for a run. Having a good day? Let’s celebrate with a run. The longer the better.  Eventually I burned myself out and, if I’m being honest, lost some of the love.  So I stopped. That was April of 2022.  Enough time has passed that I decided to get back into it. I decided to sign up for one of my favorite local races, the Frozen Gnome 50k at Veterans Acres in Crystal Lake. Slowly but surely I’ve been attempting to build myself back up but it’s been an imperfect journey, as these things tend to be. But the important thing is that I’m enjoying the process again. Because at the end of the day the journey should be as enjoyable as the destination.

-Ryan Mains

Meet the Author
Jill joined the Smith PT team in October 2020. She attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, obtaining a degree in public health in 2011. After college, Jill spent 9 years working in wellness, fitness, special events and community engagement. She is an ACE certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and a Schwinn indoor cycle instructor and uses her knowledge from these certifications to help others stay active and fit.