Running for Rare: The PT Journey – from Injury to Training for Two Marathons in One Week


by Carolyn Tremblay, PT, DPT, CLT | Aug 12, 2022

Medical Reviewer: Carolyn Tremblay, PT, DPT, CLT
Last Updated: August 12, 2022

Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to find that your passion for your career and your passion for a hobby or pastime intersect. I’ve always wanted to care for others and be of service to my community, it just happened to be a happy coincidence that I could also use my passion for running to do some good in the community.

I’m a licensed physical therapist and center manager of the Brooks Rehabilitation-Osceola Crossings outpatient clinic. I moved to Orlando in 1996 to work for a mouse and never left! I have run eight marathons to date: in Chicago; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and Orlando.

As a physical therapist, I can help my patients move better, feel better and live better. As a runner, I contribute to those that I might never meet by running to raise money for charities that provide patient assistance and fund research to make lives better. It never occurred to me that through this journey I might come full circle, needing to seek the care of others.

Even though I was running for Olympic distance triathlons (6.2 miles at the most!), I never considered a marathon—26.2 miles—until 2007. A triathlon teammate showed me the ultimate prize: a Tiffany necklace, awarded to finishers of the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. Never mind that I’d never run more than 6 miles for a triathlon, I signed up! Set the goal, figure it out later, right?

I was regularly raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through the organization’s triathlon and cycling fundraising programs, so I joined their team for the 2007 Nike Women’s Marathon. The first three-mile training was in the heat of summer, and I was concerned that I had made a mistake!

I ran relatively unscathed, with some minor aches along the way, until 2018. By that time, I had changed careers and was now a doctor of physical therapy, and after a couple of months I finally listened to my little inner nag: that new pain isn’t normal. Not long after, x-rays and an MRI confirmed my suspicion that I was dealing with a significant stress fracture of the left tibia (that big lower leg bone that we call the shin bone). Not long after this, I broke my foot, same leg! And shortly after that, I developed multiple DVTs (deep vein thrombosis) of the left leg. All of this effectively canceled my running and fundraising plans, but I didn’t accept defeat. I chose to think of it as a speed bump.

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to return to running. With a DVT, I was even worried that it might affect my ability to work as a physical therapist, to participate in serving my community or even to live independently.

Even as a physical therapist, it helps to have objective care and direct access to physical therapy which helped me return to running. Direct Access is a law in Florida that allows you to see a physical therapist for up to 30 days without first getting a referral from your physician. This allows you to begin physical therapy sooner, which can speed up your recovery and decrease your spending on healthcare costs. The use of direct access continues to help me as I consult my peers and experts in related fields to assess and develop a training plan that will support my ability to run with reduced risk of injury.

Physical therapy not only helps countless people of all ages to restore function and gain the most functional independence possible, but also helps “the everyday athlete” for both physical therapist recovery and injury prevention.

I’m grateful because this year, I get to fundraise in honor of wonderful little boy, Asher, as he navigates the world with two rare genetic brain disorders. His parents were told that it would be unlikely for him to walk or speak. Thanks to early physical therapy and occupational therapy, he is walking, playing and chasing his siblings!

In a future post, I will share the ups and downs of therapy as a therapist, the impatience of a runner on the road to recovery, and introduce you to Asher—the reason why I’m back to training for 26.2 miles, this time for not just one but two marathons in less than one week of each other: the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. on October 30, 2022 (COVID canceled it in 2020 and 2021) and the iconic New York City Marathon on November 6, 2022. Timing is everything, isn’t it?

To learn more about the National Organization for Rare Disease (NORD), please go to: https://rarediseases.org/

Medical Reviewer

Carolyn Tremblay, PT, DPT, CLT

Outpatient Center Manager, Osceola Crossings
Carolyn Tremblay, PT, DPT, CLT is a licensed physical therapist and center manager at the Brooks Osceola Crossings Outpatient Clinic in Kissimmee, which provides comprehensive rehabilitative services including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Carolyn works with patients with a variety of needs, from running injuries to brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, pelvic pain or lymphedema. Before changing careers to become a physical therapist, Carolyn was a certified sommelier and taught wine classes as well as hospitality management courses. When she isn’t working or running, she enjoys volunteering with therapy horses or going to local theme parks.
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