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RADJournals: Danelle Willey has scoliosis and never thought she would be a runner. Now she is a mother runner pregnant with twins.

Hi RAD team! My name is Danelle and I have been running since 2012. I started running when I was in college because it was a cheap and easy way to stay fit and active.  However, I was never a runner before that. I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was in eighth grade and did everything I could to get out of running the mile, primarily because it hurt my back to run. It felt like my spine was going to just go through me with every step. But I have also always been active as I was a gymnast, dancer, and cheerleader.  Those sports never bothered me or caused me pain. So, when I started running, I started slow and honestly it took a while for me to love it. But I signed up for my first half marathon, the Disneyland Half Marathon, in September 2013. My first thought when I crossed the finish line was “I can’t wait to do that again.”  And I never stopped. Fast forward to January 2019, I decided I wanted to complete a full marathon. At this point, I had figured out my back issues, but as I got older, my knees started to cause me pain. So, I knew I wanted to do this sooner rather than later. I have been taping my knees for years now with kinesiology tape. I also wore a back stabilizer for many years, which helped with the back pain. I slowly stopped wearing that and strengthened my core muscles instead, which is what really helped to alleviate most of the pain. Additionally, I also started doing more strength training and cardio bootcamp, which helped a lot.

Jump ahead to today and I am 20 weeks with pregnant with twins! My training has definitely changed. I have slowed down and decreased the mileage. Many of the pains have come back: my back, my knees, and now the added weight. Running pregnant is whole new world. I was scared at first to be honest. But now that I am farther along in my pregnancy, I have started to run a little bit more and I am walking more. I have completed 2 races since becoming pregnant, which was so fun! It felt like the babies first races. But the added weight is felt all over, and I get winded and out of breath so fast. But slowing down and just listening to my body has been the way to go. I have been wearing a belly bandit waist band while running, regardless of the mileage because it has helped to alleviate the back pain and pull up the belly weight. I always knew being pregnant with scoliosis would be a little more difficult, but now I am a pregnant runner with scoliosis.

My advice to runners with chronic issues would be to listen to your body and always add in strength training. That is really one of the biggest things that helped with my back. By strengthening my core muscles, it also helped to strengthen the muscles that support my spine and has left me stronger overall. Running is not just the legs. It's the core and upper body muscles that contribute and are so very important to work on. Without good posture, running is not easy. But I noticed after my marathon that I didn’t feel like I was hit by a truck. I was sore, yes, but I still felt strong, and I owe that to my coach, Ellen, and to the strength training that I did to stay healthy. I am beyond excited to see what next year brings! Bringing these two little lives into this world and getting back out there to races and running long distances more. I know it will take time to get my endurance and fitness back, but it will be fun and a challenge. And if there is one thing I know at this point, the challenge is what makes me stronger. I have pushed myself beyond limits I never knew were even possible with more to come! 

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