- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - It was the first fall morning of the year and despite the cool temperatures, blue skies and sunshine, Angela Van Buskirk had the running path at Nathanael Greene Close Memorial Park to herself, save for a few mommies pushing strollers.

Keeping a steady pace, Van Buskirk pounded out three miles by walking for 1 1/2 minutes and then running for a minute, the Springfield News-Leader reported (https://sgfnow.co/ZRc6jy ).

Though most refer to that as the Jeff Galloway Run Walk Run method, Van Buskirk combines the words “run” and “walk” and enthusiastically tells people, “I ralk!”

Considering the obstacles she overcame to get here - the tumor in her leg, nine-hour surgery, the wheelchair, obesity - one can’t argue with that. She ralks.

After her workout, she found a spot in the lush hosta garden to stretch and cool down.

Though she’s collected dozens of race medals in recent years, the 47-year-old Springfield woman hasn’t always been an athlete. Far from it.

Back in 2000, Van Buskirk weighed 270 pounds and struggled to keep up with her two young boys, who at the time were 7 and 9. Wanting to set a better example for her boys and, as she puts it, not embarrass them, she decided to turn her life around. She hired a personal trainer, began walking and weight lifting. Within a year, she dropped 100 pounds.

“I was in the best shape of my life,” she recalled. “Then we had a car accident. It was a bad accident.”

So bad, the family had to be extricated from the vehicle. Her husband, Darren, was taken via helicopter to the hospital while she and the boys were taken by ambulance. Luckily, Darren’s broken collar bone was the only major injury, although all four suffered bruises and cuts.

But when Van Buskirk’s left leg was X-rayed, doctors discovered a bone tumor growing in her femur, which doctors believe might have been there all her life. The accident caused a weak spot in the bone and the tumor became aggressive.

“It exploded through the (outer layer) of the bone a few weeks after the accident,” she said. Her first specialist wanted to talk about amputation.

“I got a second opinion,” she said. “I have a huge family history of cancer. I thought, ‘Great. This is going to be my cancer.’ “

The tumor was not cancerous, but it took a nine-hour surgery to remove it. Additionally, a titanium rod was inserted from her hip to her knee. Her recovery included about six months in a wheelchair, followed by six more months using a walker. Needless to say, exercise was put on hold.

“I was depressed. I just felt defeated,” Van Buskirk recalled. “I had lost all this weight and now all my muscle was turning to goo. And so I just started eating and I kept eating and eating and was sad and depressed.

“I got up to 285, the biggest I had ever been in my entire life. All I could think was if I held a sack of potatoes, I’d weigh 300 pounds,” she said, laughing.

She laughs often even though the memories are painful. She battled her weight for years after the accident, trying nearly every diet known to man with little results.

Then in 2010, a friend asked her to participate in a 5K (3.1 miles) race in Branson. She walked the entire race - at times thinking she would die - proudly crossing the finish line in an hour and nine minutes.

“I could not believe how good it felt. To feel like I was the strongest, most invincible, amazing - oh, I felt like an elite runner even though I was so slow it was ridiculously embarrassing.”

Still on an adrenaline high from the 5K, Van Buskirk anxiously signed up to run 13.1 miles in the Bass Pro Maynard Cohick Half Marathon. This time, though, she did a little research and discovered the run/walk methods.

And she was hooked.

“I remember coming around the corner and hearing, ‘Marathoners, if you are going to finish under four hours you better move it.’ And I thought, ‘Oh man, if the marathoners are finishing now, wow, I’m really slow because I was just finishing my half.’ So I just poured it on and I finished in like 3:59 and some change - just under the four hour-mark,” she said.

“And I felt like a beast. I felt amazing. I was like - yes!”

For Van Buskirk, 13.1 was her magic number. She signed up for another half marathon. And then another. And then another.

Her fifth half marathon is Oct. 18 in Kansas City. And she’ll be ralking her way to the finish line at Bass Pro’s race on Nov. 2.

She has also completed about 50 5K races and a couple 10Ks.

She’s down 74 pounds, but those aren’t the digits she cares about. Her cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar, she said, are “beyond magnificent.” And her running times improve with every race.

“The goal this year is to finish (the Bass Pro half marathon) in under three hours. I’m so going to do this,” she said. “It’s happening.”

Along with the health benefits and confidence boost, running gives Van Buskirk a sense of peace and escape.

“If work was crazy or if family life was crazy or whatever - that hour or two hours - it was mine. I didn’t have to share it with anybody. It was completely and totally mine. And it was mine to go fast. It was mine to go slow. It was mine to do whatever I wanted with it.”

The race she holds dearest to her heart was a 2K cancer memorial and survivor walk she completed with her mom, a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor who has rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia and uses a walker.

“It was just a little over a mile,” Van Buskirk said. “We did that race. (Mom) said, ‘But we came in last.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but we came in. Somebody’s got to finish last. Who cares?

“You don’t have to go fast. Just go,” she said. “You don’t have to have the body of a runner. Just the heart of a runner.”

___

Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide