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.