For Rod Engel, running had always been a big part of his life. Two years ago, when an unexpected injury occurred, he thought that his running days might have been behind him. After a lot of rehab and hard work Engel accomplished something that no one was sure would be possible. He completed the 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
The 53-year-old always enjoyed running and it became more of a passion of his into his adult years, when he joined a running group so he could start working towards his goal of running a marathon.
“I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and just never did. So, as I got older, I got that marathon bug in me to want to do it even more,” said Engel. “I joined the club in 2013 because I knew I couldn’t train alone and from there I did about five marathons.”
While doing his normal routine for warming up and then speed work outs to help enhance his performance Engel had felt that he had injured himself, at the time he didn’t know that he had ended up tearing all of the tendons of his hamstring from his pelvis.
“I knew something was wrong. I felt it,” said Engel. “I did a 180 on the track and fell onto the ground and at the same time I fractured my ankle. “It was really bad. I was able to walk off the track, but I couldn’t get into my car, so my wife and kid came to pick me up.”
Engel went ahead and saw a doctor close to him where he found out that he would need surgery, but he wanted a second opinion, that’s when he found Dr. Shane Nho, who was highly recommended to him.
“It wasn’t a surprise when Dr. Nho told me I needed surgery,” said Engel. “I was hoping the second opinion would be you don’t need surgery everything is fine, but I knew that was kind of wishful thinking.” As the days went on Engel became in more pain and it was starting to become very scary for him, because he wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But after meeting with Dr. Nho, Engel was calmed knowing the surgery wouldn’t be a problem, but the hard work would come after.
“He told me I should be able to run after the surgery and rehab, but he wasn’t sure how far. When I asked him if I could run a marathon, he told me there was no data on running a marathon after this surgery,” said Engel. “That’s where I was. I knew there were no guarantees, but in my mind, I was hoping to return to my running club and see what happens.” After Engel had the surgery there was about six weeks where he stayed in a brace and couldn’t really do anything, so when the time came to start doing physical therapy, he was excited to get back to focusing on rebuilding his strength.
“In about January I was put on a return to run program and it was set up to where you could probably get to three miles in a month,” explained Engel. “It took me a couple of months before I could get there. I had some pain in my ankle and shin from the fracture and it wasn’t so much the hamstring, but I was able to get there”
Towards the end of 2018 Engel was up to running 10 to 12 miles and that is when the confidence started to sink in. He signed up to do a half a marathon in March and it went well. There were struggles along the way that made him realized he had to focus a lot on strength training but when the summer hit, he knew he would be able to participate in the Chicago Marathon. “Five weeks before I did a 20-mile run and that’s when I knew I could do this. I went out slower than normal for the marathon, but I didn’t care because I got to the finish line,” said Engel.
“I’m very happy and proud and I thank Dr. Nho and his staff for getting me there because I really didn’t know what expect when I first went in, I was scared. After talking to him I had confidence in him, and I just felt that it was going to be okay.”
Everything that Dr. Nho told Engel would happen, happened. He knew what to expect after the surgery and that the rehab was going to be the most difficult part. Engel did his part too. He did all the exercises he was supposed to at home and read all the papers he was given to contribute to a successful outcome.
“For me, the running is a physical, mental and a social aspect of my life. Part of me was scared for the physical aspect because I didn’t know what I would be like post-surgery,” said Engel. “The other part was the thought that I might lose a big part of my life. What if I can’t run, what if I can't hang out with these people and run with them anymore. This process got me back to where I was and I'm thankful for all involved.”