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Running Becomes New Routine for Volleyball Player

Broken back leads Blair on a journey and running becomes her new routine

There isn’t a correct way or right time to begin running. Everyone’s journey is different. Some start at a young age while others transition from a different sport. Some start later in life while others return after a lengthy injury. Unbeknownst to Blair Nagel, she broke her back in the seventh grade. But she didn’t realize it until eight years later (sounds like a runner already!). Read her edition of My Running Story, see how running became her new routine, and follow her journey back to full health!

Image of Blair Nagel backpacking through Colorado. Learn how running became her new routine when you ready her edition of My Running Story.

Blair enjoying the scenery while backpacking through Colorado! Credit – Blair Nagel.

Running was the only workout that didn’t aggravate back pain

February 2019 was marked by many things, most prominently inexplicable back pain. Here’s the thing, I’m a 21-year-old lifelong athlete and suddenly I couldn’t drive a car more than ten minutes down Lamar Blvd. How was I going to make it through the upcoming summer of backpack guiding in Colorado? Running became the only form of working out that seemed to make my body and back stronger, rather than ache. So, it became my new routine.

I grew up playing year-round volleyball. As long as I can remember, it was three or more hours of play a day. School ball in the fall, club in the winter and spring, beach in the summer. I’ve always loved the intensity of the game. I was in shape to sprint and jump – not to run long distances. So running and I have never quite been friends, barely even acquaintances on conditioning day. Then one day in the seventh grade, amidst all this training, I felt a sharp pain in my back for the first time ever. After a few months of physical therapy, I was back up and running, but things were never quite the same.

Eight years of my stubborn nature later, I had let my lower back pain persist to the point that some nights I’d end up laying on the floor. Sitting to finish an essay for class was too painful. I have friends in my life who decided it was time for me to overcome my strong will and see a spine doctor. All hopes and prayers begged for clarity because this didn’t add up. 

My back has been broken since seventh grade

Within seconds of looking at my x-ray, my doctor exclaimed, “Oh! Your back is broken! But don’t worry — it’s better than a fracture. No surgery needed. L5-S1 Isthmic Spondylolisthesis.” Essentially, my lowest vertebrae and sacrum are no longer connected by bone, only resting on my disc. My strong muscles compensated for the break since it occurred in seventh grade, until 2019, when my focus turned more to school and extracurriculars rather than fitness.

Not only did running become the new routine, it became a form of medicine. A safe place of healing. Training for the 2020 Austin Half Marathon is a journey back to health and a journey out of pain and stubbornness and into one of joy and overcoming.

My Running Story is a series of blog submissions from runners just like yourself. They submitted their inspirational running stories as part of a contest to win an entry of their choice to the 2020 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon. Their stories range from crossing their first finish line to drastic lifestyle change due to running. Everyone’s story is different and unique, impacting them in a specific way. While each story is specific to the author, everyone can resonate in some form or fashion because of the power of running. Other My Running Story submissions include Kayleigh Williamson, Kirsten Pasha, Michael Coffey, Samantha Santos, Tom Hamann, Erica Richart, Angela Clark, Rebecca Galvan, Jeremy Tavares, and Axel Reissnecker.

Love for Running Transcends Stage IV Cancer Diagnosis

Not even Stage IV cancer can extinguish Axel’s love for running

Runners often credit running for helping them through tough times. Having a bad day? Go for a run? Stress at work? Log some miles on the trail? Frustrating situation? Visit the track for speed work. Axel Reissnecker’s story is the exact same. His love for running is unquestioned and the foundation upon which he relied after his cancer diagnosis. Read Axel’s edition of My Running Story and learn why he’s returning to an old tradition after defeating Stage IV kidney cancer.

Axel Reissnecker and his family celebrate after finishing the 2007 Cap10K. His love for running helped him defeat Stage IV cancer.

Axel and his family (left to right – son Sven, wife Karin, daughter Anja, son Felix) after Cap10K. Credit – Alex Reissnecker

Love for running turns into a tradition

Hi, I’m Axel Reissnecker. I’ve always had a love for running, though I didn’t start participating in races until I turned 44. After my first 10K in the fall of 1997, I quickly ramped up and ran my first marathon in Austin in 1998. This became a kind of tradition with 10 consecutive Austin Marathons from 1998 until 2007. Another annual tradition for me is running the Cap 10K in a costume. I even won first place twice in the costume contest! Eventually, after years of running road races, I switched to the “dark side,” aka trail running. I started running even longer distances, up to 100 miles.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, Stage IV, which meant the cancer had already spread. I began chemo after the removal of my left kidney and the secondary tumor in my sinuses. However, this did not stop me from running. Less than four weeks after kidney surgery I was back on the trail and speed-hiking a 50-mile race.

The running tradition returns

Seven years later, at age 66, I am much slower than I used to be. This is also partially due to the side effects of the chemo. I also somewhat cut down on long-distance running. Nevertheless, I still like to run. It clears my mind and keeps me relaxed, balanced, and always in a good mood. Running also comes with a lot of health benefits. For example, it helps keep my blood pressure under control without taking meds. Rain or shine, there is nothing like being outdoors and enjoying a good run.

By the way, in 2017 I decided to return to the annual tradition of running the Austin Marathon. So, when you see an old geezer huffing’ and puffin’ towards the finish line on Congress Avenue on February 16, 2020, that might be yours truly!

My Running Story is a series of blog submissions from runners just like yourself. They submitted their inspirational running stories as part of a contest to win an entry of their choice to the 2020 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon. Their stories range from crossing their first finish line to drastic lifestyle change due to running. Everyone’s story is different and unique, impacting them in a specific way. While each story is specific to the author, everyone can resonate in some form or fashion because of the power of running. Other My Running Story submissions include Kayleigh Williamson, Kirsten Pasha, Michael Coffey, Samantha Santos, Tom Hamann, Erica Richart, Angela Clark, Rebecca Galvan, and Jeremy Tavares.