Hal Higdon wrote the book on running. (Quite a few of them, actually.) His popular training plans, covering distances from a 5K to a full marathon, have helped countless runners cross the finish line. The 85-year-old Higdon, who ran eight times in the Olympic trials, won four World Masters championships, and has a marathon personal record of 2:21:55, also has a lively presence on Twitter and Facebook. Which is where we read about his recent unplanned break from training, chronicled in a four-part series Higdon dubbed "My Big Fat Mayo Weekend."
It all began, he writes, with "a blockage in my left nostril that inhibited breathing." That blockage was revealed to be a benign tumor, called an osteoma. Higdon was told the growth would need to be removed, and was referred to Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. There, he met with Osarenoma Olomu, M.D., who explained "in a reassuring voice," Higdon says, "how he would enter through my nostrils with a laser drill and grind away until the osteoma was only an ugly memory." (Reassuring indeed.) After learning about the procedure, Higdon writes, "It occurred to me that one slip, and I might not climb off the operating table." With that in mind, he felt "very fortunate having my surgery at this great hospital."
Higdon woke up six hours after surgery grateful to have "zero memory of anything that happened." But he does remember his recovery, which featured "numerous pleasant people … all eager to add to my comfort." He tells us that the Mayo staff he encountered were all "friendly with a big smile on their face," and likened them to "Walmart doorway greeters on steroids." (We'll take that as a compliment.)
Higdon left the hospital just a day after the procedure. At a follow-up appointment, he "asked Dr. O about the difficulty of remaining on his feet during a six-hour operation." The good doctor responded with a question of his own. How many marathons, he wondered, had Higdon run? After hearing the answer — 111 — Dr. Olomu smiled and said, "We do what we do." (Indeed.)
Two months after the procedure, Higdon is following his own advice by easing back into his regular exercise routine of running, biking, swimming and weightlifting. Over the next month or so, he expects to "get back to where I was (or near where I was)," adding that "naturally" he will then "brag about it on Facebook." (We think he's earned the right.)
Higdon believes his decades-long commitment to healthy habits has aided his recovery. "The physical fitness I and others who follow my programs gain from living right and eating right can cause major benefits, particularly as we age," he tells us. He says people are often surprised to learn that he's 85 years old, "mainly because I don't move like someone that age." And age, after all, is just a number. "We can be as young as we want to be," Higdon says, "if we follow a healthy lifestyle."
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