Athlete of the Month - WHY Racing Events

Athlete of the Month

I love running. It is the only time I feel normal. During my practice runs and races I am free. I am not the disabled person who struggles daily with headaches, vertigo, all over body pain. It gives me hope and joy that I thought I had lost though life’s challenges.

I ran my first race with my father Delos Dutton when I was in second grade. We did the Starlight Run. I loved it and we ran it together the next 5 yrs. He also taught me the importance of volunteering. We helped out at a aid station at the Cascade Run Off.

As I entered junior high I focused on sprinting but my freshman year my sister got me to try out for cross-country where I made varsity my first year and in track as well. I have great memories of track and cross country. When I started college I found my self lost. I was no longer the best runner. I left University of Oregon and was accepted into the Nursing program at University of Portland. I made the Dean’s list, was Vice President of Student Nursing Association. I was happy. I red shirt my first year in cross county and I watched my weight drop from 110 to 98. I went to the team Doctor and was told I was a heathy, thin runner. When I went home for the holidays my family was concerned and put me in St. Vincent’s eating disorder clinic. I was angry. I felt my school mates and goal where taken away so I dropped to 82 pounds.

After several years and many treatments I fully recovered. I married and bought my first house and was excited to start a family. Only to have those dreams ripped from me. I was rear ended on my way to work. The accident left me permanently disabled with frontal brain damage (short term memory loss, inability to make decisions, confusion, anger out busts) and inner ear damaged. I was on bed rest for 3 months. The vertigo, headaches and nausea are awful. My balance was at 50%. Recovery even after 11 years is slow. I did balance therapy, physical therapy for neck, back and shoulder injuries. I saw the chiropractor, did epidural steroid injections in my neck, low back, hips and shoulder. I could not drive, shop, read, work. Life stopped. I worked hard to get my balance to 76% and I have relearned to put objects away that are waist level or higher. I kept going to doctor appointments in hope something would help but nothing did. Then when I thought things could not get worse I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I woke up with extreme femur pain. It took everything I had to put my robe on and make it to the couch. One morning the pain was bad, it took till 11:00 to get to the living room to turn the TV on. This was the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. I sat there and cried. Then came the movement of Boston strong. I wanted to be strong. That’s when I decided that it was up to me to do something.

I started running 2-3 miles a days and made a goal to run one race a month. That was 2013, since then I have joined Portland Running Company Race Team. The first year I won Female Master of the Year award. The next year I won the Grand Prix! I have gone on to run eleven 1/2 marathons, (against my Rheumatologist recommendation) and several 10ks and 5ks. My personal best in the 1/2 marathon is 1:35:00, in the 10k 43:21, 5k 20:40. I have new goals and dreams. I am happy and feel very blessed to have my life touched by Paula Harkin. I have many people come up to me after races and even on practice runs tell me I inspire them and they don’t even know my story! At first I was embarrassed, then I accepted it and I am honored.

This past month I won the Bridge of the Goddess 10k run. It wasn’t my fastest time but it felt good to be out there chasing the bike pacer. There are days when I feel down and I think I am missing out on life, I can’t going to the movies, fly, swim, work, I can’t look up at the stars, I can only drive 8 miles during the day when it’s dry out. Then I have to remind myself what I can do and what I have. I can run, I have a great group of running friends, they are my family! My life maybe small but its full and that is what matters.