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Meredith Holt, Published May 17 2012

Holt: I’m walking the 5K, and that’s OK

Tonight I’ll join 8,000 others hitting the pavement in the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota Fargo 5K.

I’ll be walking, not running, my first 5K. I used to think I shouldn’t bother until I could run it, but why wait?

Though I feel apologetic for walking instead of running, I do enjoy it. I went on many walks with my parents and sister growing up and still do when I visit.

I like to “stretch my legs” on the treadmill without the wear-and-tear of running. I increase the incline, put on some jams and go. It feels good!

A few years ago, before I started my weight-loss journey full force, a friend tried to convince me I could run a marathon.

Thinking I would do it and track my progress, I opened a Word document and typed “Day one.” I never again opened that file.

I held on to this image of a leaned-down version of myself proving everyone who doubted me wrong and finishing the Fargo Marathon.

I’d tear up as I doubled over to catch my breath, and it’d be incredibly emotional. My friends would drop their signs and hug me. Then I could say I ran a marathon.

But is that really me? Will I ever be a “runner”?

In high school, I made a feeble attempt at cross-country running, but I didn’t fully commit to it and suffered a knee injury early on in the process.

That injury has stuck with me to varying degrees for over 10 years. It shows itself in knee pain, tenderness and a “grinding” sensation.

I was at a normal weight when the problem developed. I’m sure gaining weight didn’t help, but losing 105 pounds hasn’t helped much, either.

Every step I take is audible. You can hear my knees snap, crackle and pop when I pivot or walk up and down stairs.

During “flare-ups,” my knees felt like they weren’t working properly, like the moving parts weren’t fitting right. I’d lose my footing stepping off the elliptical machine.

This year, I finally saw an orthopedic doctor. After $600 worth of X-rays, I had a diagnosis: patellofemoral syndrome, osteoarthritis, tendonitis and a little bursitis.

Whoa. I knew it was bad, but geez.

Ironically enough, patellofemoral pain syndrome is sometimes referred to as “runner’s knee.”

The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes patellofemoral syndrome as the softening and breakdown of the cartilage that lines the underside of the kneecap.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine says patellofemoral pain syndrome affects twice as many women as men.

Runner’s World magazine attributes the difference to our wider hips, which put more stress on our kneecaps.

Other treatment options are available, but I manage my symptoms with an osteoarthritis medication, low-impact cardio and strength-training.

Certain exercises target the muscles and tissues around my knees to help keep them in position.

Still, it’s not enough to counteract the high impact of running.

There are people with much more serious medical conditions who will be walking or running in this weekend’s Fargo Marathon events.

My knee pain and discomfort seems minor next to someone who’s had a heart transplant, has survived cancer or has a prosthetic limb.

Since my imaginary “day one,” I’ve realized I don’t need to run a marathon to be successful in my health and fitness goals.

For now, I’m running my own Merethon, and if I have to walk it, well, that’s OK.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590