by Alicia Cocke
“If I can do it; you can do it.”
I never thought I would utter the sentence, “I ran a half marathon today.”
There was a time in my life where the things I “could not do” overran my life. I was diagnosed with a rare and often misunderstood disorder called Slipped capital femoral epiphysis, or SCFE. For a quick reference, SCFE is a hip condition that occurs in teens and pre-teens who are still growing. For reasons that are not well understood, the ball at the head of the femur (thighbone) slips off the neck of the bone in a backwards direction. This causes pain, stiffness, and instability in the affected hip.
This disorder affected both hips over a two-year time period, and none of my doctors knew what was wrong with me. It was by random chance I went to a new doctor who watched me walk, and sent me for an x-ray of my hips; I was then diagnosed and sent for emergency hip pinning.
The hip pinning did reduce the pain, but it made simple tasks very difficult. I often felt helpless, and I could not even tie my own shoes. Throughout high school and my early 20’s, I just dealt with what I was given and became extremely depressed. My weight had gotten out of control, and the more pain I felt from my hips, the more I ate.
I was too young in my early 20’s to get hip replacements, which I needed desperately. I reached almost 400 lbs. by the age of 27. I was in so much pain, I finally went to my primary care doctor and said I HAD to get fixed. I could not take being broken much longer. Something had to give.
My doctor was very blunt with me. He said you have to lose weight for any surgeon to take you seriously, but you really cannot exercise because it will do even more damage to your already avascular necrosis (bone on bone) in your hips. He was 100% correct.
I awoke the next morning more determined than ever. I started a new diet, losing about 60 lbs. I enrolled in college, using a walker to get around on campus; I was not letting any more excuses get in my way. After losing the 60 lbs. I underwent gastric bypass on May 5th, 2016, which helped me lose another 100 lbs. I then found a surgeon who was willing to take on my complicated hip replacement. This surgeon knew I was determined and would do everything I could with physical therapy to help with the healing process. He told me my best option was to do both at the same time. A bilateral hip replacement was performed on May 16th, 2017. I showed up to orientation for my Surgical Technology degree program in a wheelchair seven days post op.
Physical therapy was not easy. I had no muscles that could support movement in my thighs. I underwent six months of this grueling and rewarding treatment. I graduated with two associate degrees with honors, with a diploma in Surgical Technology in July of 2018.
From disabled to athlete
In August of 2018, I went from being completely disabled to working a full-time job as a certified surgical technologist. Mainly I did total joint replacements, helping people like me. I finally had the confidence to date again, which is when I met Daniel Roberts in March of 2019. Daniel was an avid runner, and I was so impressed with him. I would go to his races and think how amazing he was. Our first date was watching him complete a 10k, and then we went to a beer festival afterwards. I expressed interest in getting into running, and Daniel found a 5K color run that took place on May 17th, 2019.
It took me about 59 minutes to complete my first ever run. I had never run before like that, and I was overcome with emotion. I was upset with how long it took me, but Daniel kept reminding me it’s not about the time, it’s about finishing. I was bit by the running bug and signed up for many 5Ks, then went onto longer distances as time went on. It was in July that Daniel happened to come across the Asheville Marathon and Half at Biltmore Estate.
I remember looking at him saying there is no way I can run 13.1 miles. No way! He looked at me and said, “I know you can; you just have to train, we have several months to get you to where you can run this.”
The training for the half marathon began. I started training and put in a lot of time, and twisted my ankle during my training process. It wasn’t until February 2020 that I felt like I was ready. I did two 10 milers on back-to-back weekends: the Charlotte 10-Miler, and the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K. I broke all my PRs at the Allstate hot chocolate run. I went from a 59-minute 5K to a 45-minute 5k.
Running gave me back my confidence. Running helped me gain thigh muscles I never thought I would have, and it helped me lose about another 20 pounds. I was ready and prepared for my first half marathon. I put in the time and the effort. Then the unexpected happened.
Running is not cancelled: From Half Marathon to Virtual Run
When I received the email stating the Asheville Marathon and Half at Biltmore Estate was cancelled, I was devastated. As a healthcare worker, I completely understood the decision, and it was the correct call. Daniel called me and asked, “Do you still want to do this Alicia?”
I answered, “YES!”
Daniel created a 13.1 half marathon course throughout downtown Rock Hill, South Carolina, a beautiful course that included his favorite places at Winthrop University. I was going strong and kept to my pace, but at about Mile 9 and Mile 10, I almost called it quits. I was hurting and feeling that sun beat down on me. Daniel, however, would not let me give up: He kept telling me, “You got this. You are amazing. I am so proud of you!”
Mile 12 was complete walking. When I started to realize we were close to the car, I told myself that I am not walking to that finish line. I am going to finish strong! I ran the last bit to the best of my ability.
“I did it! I just ran my first half marathon!”
I have never felt so accomplished. Many people tell me that they wish they could do races, that they wish they could run a 5K. I just look at those people and say, “I used to be completely disabled, I lost almost 200 lbs., and I had both hips replaced, If I can do this you can do this.”
About the Author: Alicia Cocke lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She was a participant of the Asheville Marathon and Half Virtual Run, and we are very thankful for her and her inspirational story.
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