Finish Line™ Story: Sam Brown
TRAIL runner Sam Brown was experiencing all the usual aches and pains which follow that burst of elation at crossing the finish line of a brutal ultra race.
The conclusion of the Buffalo Stampede in Bright – a torturous 75km slog involving 4500 metres of climbing in the high country of Victoria in April this year – was to him a victory in its own right after more than two years of crippling foot pain.
But an even more euphoric moment – something Sam described as something of an epiphany – arrived the following day.
“The rest of the body was trashed but then it dawned on me my feet were all good and I hadn’t thought about my feet at all the day before,” the 38-year-old said.
“The technical terrain we’d competed over … that was what was usually a nightmare for my feet.
“To do something that wild and to not even think about them and then for it to register with me the following day … that was a moment.”
There must have been times during the previous two years of self-assessing, Googling probable causes and treatment and then time and again the disappointment of no progress, no pain relief where Sam would have thought such a “high” might never be possible.
He concedes over-training led to issues with his feet and then months of “going it alone” before seeking professional help probably kept him off his feet for longer than was necessary.
“I’ve been running for close on 10 years,” the Brisbane-based fly-in, fly-out underground coal miner said.
“It was probably a couple of years ago I was ramping up my training for a race and – I just don’t think I was smart enough doing it, dived in and did a heap of ‘k’s – and ended up with some pretty sore feet.
“The pain was pretty intense, like a stabbing pain, short sharp pains like you’d stepped on a nail.
“I didn’t think it was plantar fasciitis but that’s where the problem was, right in the arch of my feet.
“So I spent a fair bit of time trying to fix it myself, You Tube and web MD, and all different sorts of things.
“And then my missus Meagan – she’s a huge fan of Brad Beer’s podcast, she loves all the stuff he puts up on Instagram, lots of great tips – she said to me ‘You should go try this guy’.
“I felt like I’d ticked all the boxes trying to fix it myself but in hindsight I probably should have gone to see a running-specific physio much sooner.”
Sam said he arrived at POGO with a long list written down of what he had tried to get himself right, including an ultrasound and then ultrasound-guided cortisone injections in both feet trying to sort it out.
“I probably only had four-face-to-face sessions with Brad at POGO over a six-month period,” he said.
“At our first meeting I said ‘this is my time line, this is the stuff I’ve tried myself and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere’. That might have been about a year ago.”
Brad described Sam’s condition as “bilateral (both feet) persistent plantar fibromatosis (Ledderhose disease) – a rare, benign, hyperproliferative fibrous tissue disorder resulting in the formation of nodules along the plantar fascia.
“This condition can be locally aggressive, and often results in pain, functional disability, and decreased quality of life,” Brad said.
“Through the two years of on/off attempts at ultra running and the subsequent pain and disability Sam’s feet had become deconditioned (weak). Weaknesses extended to other running muscles including the calf (plantar flexors muscles).
“Rehabilitation focused on restoring diminished tissue tolerance to Sam’s foot musculature and running body, alongside a progressive return to full ultramarathon training workloads.”
Sam says looking back he’s probably a little embarrassed about how long it was before he bit the bullet and sought professional help.
“I felt like we were on the right track from the get-go,” Sam says.
“Brad gave me a strength training program for runners through the app and each time I saw him we’d go through a few different exercises, change a few things and bump it up and now I’m pretty much on a maintenance program.”
“As you know he’s great, he’s a wizard.”
Sam says after the Buffalo Stampede he tagged Brad in a couple of Instagram posts to let him know how he went “and I told all my friends that if they have any niggles, or if they’re not at 100 per cent and they want to be, that they should go see this guy for sure. He certainly changed things for me”.
“Brad seemed pretty stoked about it and he has reached out to me a couple of times since just to check in and see how I’m going,” Sam says.
Sam and Meagan’s next target is the Gold Coast Marathon after a recent fly-in, fly-out assault on the Mackay Half Marathon – “a bit of a rust-buster before Gold Coast”.
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