Turning injury into accomplishment

Posted on Jul 21, 2023, by

While running has long been a passion of mine, it’s competitive walking that brought me to the Community First Fox Cities Marathon Presented by Miron Construction for the first time.

For me, running has always been a great combination of stress relief, challenging myself, and getting to be outdoors. While I ran cross country in high school, I really set my sights on distance running in 2012 when I found the Milwaukee Brewers 5K and Green Bay Packers 5K were on the same day. I challenged myself to do both, and that started off a wave of distance challenges that brought me to my first full marathon in 2013. Unfortunately, 40 years of wear and tear (not just from distance running) left me with some injuries that led to a series of five knee surgeries over the course of several years. While each surgery gave me some relief and allowed me to continue running some half marathons, it got a little more difficult to return to distance running each time.

In June 2019, after trying to get my mileage back up following the second repair on my right knee, I decided to try walking the half marathon distance to see what would happen, mostly out of stubbornness but also for exercise. I did it, and it felt okay. It took me roughly three hours, and I thought this might be worth exploring. My friend had done competitive walking at the Community First Fox Cities Marathon and enjoyed it, so I knew it was out there and could be an exciting challenge for me.

BY: Michael Brown

In 2019, I signed up for the ThedaCare Half Marathon and during training, I was able to get my time down – but the race eventually got stormed out. I kept training despite 2020’s cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and instead participated race walking in other community running races. I focused on technique, which is part athleticism but also part science. By 2021, I was down to 10:55/mile walking and was thrilled to finally be able to complete the ThedaCare Half Marathon.

For me, competitive walking has been the answer to my injuries. While I couldn’t run a half marathon distance anymore, competitive walking offers me the same cardiovascular benefits. In addition to that, the mental concentration needed is a great new challenge. When running, I always went to my happy place and tuned out the world for a while. Consequently, two hours felt like a very long, challenging time. With competitive walking, you have to focus on your technique and strategy. If your mind wanders off to your happy place, you will revert to regular walking and lose your pace. This makes two hours fly by.

In both 2021 and 2022, I was blessed to have finished first in the competitive walking division. Still, I’m not anywhere close to the best competitive walkers that have ever participated, and that provides motivation. Every year, the most important piece to me is just to get out there and enjoy the camaraderie. It’s not an overstatement to say I train for and look forward to this race all year! My wife Kathy would say I train obsessively, but that’s another story!

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