Running for a purpose...as life evolves

by Carl Larsen

For the past 7 years I have run for a purpose. Running for the sake of running is not the easiest and not the most fun form of entertainment for most of us, especially me. In Central Illinois, running can be extremely hot, cold, wet, icy, snowy, rainy, and sometimes all at the same time as you all know. Having a purpose in running and make running fun have been my goals.

Our running club is a vehicle which does indeed help me along with that purpose. Our SWRC website states our purpose in detail. Many of us run for many of those purposes. My purpose in running seems to be always evolving.

When Valeria Rohde introduced me to SWRC 4 years ago, I was interested in running the Chicago Marathon. My purpose was to avoid the loose running dogs attacking me running by myself and join the long run group for the fall. From that moment on I found purpose ( a second time ) in running - my first was to get in shape again and try to keep off 65 pounds, which was accomplished. That “safety” running purpose in training found me enjoying running again. No longer running in solitary confinement, conversing with others instead of with one’s self, and having safety in numbers while running was all good. 5 years of this training help me improve immensely. My marathon times have gone from 3:47 to 3 consecutive BQs 3:39:02, 3:39:07, 3:39:19. The fun was definitely back in my running.

With the help of Richard Tapping, I accomplished another purpose or goal in 2015. I wanted to do a half every month that year!

In 2016, my purpose was to BQ IN Boston at the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, I was ill 48 hours before the race. I ran well until the 10k mark and then run/walked for a 4:11. This was not me and I wanted to better that mark in 2017 - another purpose.

I had already begun training for Boston 2017 when August of 2016 came around. I was working with metal on a retaining wall with Ken McMillan and felt I needed to get a physical, tetanus shot, and a PSA test for Prostate Cancer which was suggested by my new PCP Dr Tegan McCormick.

My last PSA was done in 2014 and was 2.1. I received a call from Dr McCormick and my PSA jumped to a 5.7.

Dr. McCormick referred me to Dr Regan, a Urologist at Christie Clinic. I had a biopsy just after the 2016 Chicago Marathon and I found out I had 6-7 Gleason scores and Stage 2 Prostate Cancer. I had two slow growing areas and 1 fast growing area.

By November, I made a decision on the kind of therapy I wanted and it was down to 2 choices, neither of which were available in Central Illinois. My choice was University of Chicago Medicine, home of the first atomic test – done underground under the football bleachers next to the squash courts (right, Jim Doyle?) by Enrico Fermi.

My first choice was Laser ablation focal guided MRI which is a localized treatment with laser beams. The second was Brachytherapy, which is insertion of Radioactive seeds through needles into the cancer. After months of insurance referral delays, I had a Volume study and mapping of my prostate. The procedure is not much fun at all, and I went through all this agony only to find out I need to be on prostrate reduction meds, testosterone reducing meds, and a cancer blocker. I eventually had a second volume study then was finally approved 4.23.17. I was told my cancer had advanced too far for laser therapy.

My running has another purpose.... Running strong, now on meds.

I ran very well on these meds in spite of battling my breasts hurting, periods of untimely bowel movements and light-headedness. I found that if I delayed taking the meds at night until just before bed, that was the key to running successfully without issues the next day.

While battling all this in 2017, I have run Charleston 10k, Mountain Goat 8.8, Little Rock 13.1, Boston Marathon, Illinois Marathon 10k, and Kirby Derby 5k. At times I am happy with these efforts despite finding myself in the medical tent after finishing my second Boston Marathon.

On 5.23.17 I had 70 radioactive seeds (Iodine 125) implanted in my prostate. I walked out of the hospital and a mile to the train station that day. I asked my doctor if I could run the next day and he told me to take it easy. My response was that I promise I won’t run 6:50 per mile! After we both laughed, I told him I was running the Zero Prostate 10k and I promised to run no faster than 8:30s. He did not say no, but advised, “Just don’t do anything strenuous for 2 weeks.”

I woke up with purpose on 5.24.17. I ran 5 miles in 46 min, then I ran 5 miles the next 4 days, too. I took Thursday and Friday off and ran my first radioactive 10k Saturday 6.3.2017.

As it was at Countryside, the weather in Joliet, Illinois was hot. The race there didn’t start until 8:30am when the start temp was 75 degrees with a high of 89.

A new-found purpose in running hit my brain during the National Anthem.......Survival.

“What the hell am I doing?” my brain asked me. I still have the old meds in me and now a new one?! What will these 70 radioactive seeds in me feel like ?

I went out for a warmup prior to the Anthem and found out that the first mile is downhill and coming home is uphill.... a vortex, I like to call it.

The starter inched us up to the timing mat and counted down... 3-2-1! We are off!

Within the first 3 minutes,I look at my pace and I’m sucked in a 7-min-pace vortex! With my heart rate at 167 - 8 pts over my max of 159 - this was a death wish. I was hoping by mile 3 and 23 minutes later my HR would be lower, but it was at 170. I was overheating. By mile 4, I was walking. I thought to myself, “I am so screwed. I had a 46 min PR at Countryside last year and now I’m walking in this race?!” My heart rate never came down.

My finish in this race was 7th overall , 1st in my age bracket and 1st overall patient survivor of Prostate Cancer... so maybe I was being a little hard on myself. After all, this was my first race after Brachytherapy, so that is a PR - 53:32** abt ( after Brachytherapy ) will be forever noted. I am currently in my 3rd week of 25 miles ( my per week avg) . I went to the fun run 6.6.17 and ran on Global Running Day hill speed running 6.7.17. I felt like I needed to drop 65lbs but that is not the issue. The current meds for the next two weeks drops my blood pressure to a level that my heart needs to work harder than what it needs to be. I plan on continuing to run through this as well.

Just a note from 5.23.17- 7.23.17 I am certifiably Radioactive (among other things) .You will see me sporting a white hat with a radiation warning button on it. I must stay 6 ft away from you ( I signed a contact for compliance). As much as I would like to hug you, I cannot. I am not supposed to be within 6 ft of all living things and that is the hardest part of this therapy.

My current purpose is to run the Chicago Marathon 2017 as a charity runner for Zero Prostate and my I Run 4 Michael buddy Zach Zweifel (ZZZs). Feel free to follow me on Facebook @ Running for Zero Prostate 2017. Donations will be gladly accepted.

Now for my fellow guy runners who are age 40 +,please consider getting a PSA test as soon as possible as it establishes a rather inexpensive baseline. Because I was watching mine, I believe I caught my cancer in time. Reach out to other guys and encourage them to have the test.

My Iodine 125 seeds have a half life of a year so it will take four years to know for sure if I am truly a survivor of Prostate Cancer. In the meantime, I will be in that Patient Bracket at the Zero Prostate 5&10k 2018,2019,2020,2021 ......Ya hoo!

Find purpose in your running..... as in life, it evolves!

Peace out, 
Carl Larsen Jr

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of In Passing.