Too Pale to Run a Marathon

Thank you all for being so excited for me and my new gig writing for NBC New York! Yesterday, my second post went up!

Dori’s Quest: The Refine Method is a review of Refine Method, the workout I have been obsessed with for the last few months. This review is the first in a series I will be working on at NBC New York called Dori’s Quest – all about my quest to find the perfect workout in New York City. I will review different classes, trainers, trends and more. Expect to find these articles on Mondays. I am so happy that Refine got to be my first in this series; especially timely since they just won NY Magazine’s Best New Workout of 2011.

Back to business.

It is no secret that I am frustrated with the health care system in this country. I’ve mentioned my GI illness on here before but I don’t know if you know that I haven’t actually been to a doctor about it in almost a year and a half. I saw so many doctors and in the end they all told me there was nothing they could do, and sent me off to a surgeon. I ended up seeing two surgeons who both recommended major surgery that would essentially destroy my life.

Not good. Not necessary.

So it was a nice surprise to find an orthopedist who specializes in hips who I really liked. As I discussed in My Hip Injury: Part 1 and Part 2, the doctor sent me for an MRI — it showed a labral tear — as well as a cortisone injection and physical therapy. His goal was to get the areas surrounding my hip nice and strong to take the stress off my hip and, if I improve enough, be able to try and start training for the NYC Marathon by June.

I received a few aggressive — but well-meaning — comments in response to this idea.

I have a labrum tear and FAI and there is nothing that physical therapy, injections, rest can do to heal this injury . . .  you should just have surgery and get it out of the way. Surgery is the only thing that will ever get rid of a labrum tear . . . Frankly, I think that your physician and therapists are misleading you to believe that your injury will allow you to run a marathon. By all means it is your body but the more complicated the tear the more complicated the surgery and the more complicated the recovery process and the less chance of a full and complete recovery . . .  I always like to remember that A-Rod had a torn labrum in 2009 and was playing baseball 2 months later. If they labrum would heal itself with time then why did surgeons opt to fix him before the season instead of letting it heal or waiting until December for surgery?


Dori, while I think it’s great you are trying to do everything you can and you are seeing a reduction in pain I have to agree with the [above comment]. You could get a second opinion on your MRI but if you really have a labral tear, it will not go away on its own. If your labrum is already trying to heal, this sort of workload will surely do serious damage . . . Trust me I’ve been through all the self-talk, telling myself “Oh if I’m better by this date…” and I’ve come to learn, your body does not work by your brain’s deadlines. Your body does what it wants to do and you can only do so much. I don’t want to scare you but if there’s anything I could tell past me it’s to go easy and pay attention to your body.

I know the commenters were trying to be helpful. However, everyone’s situation is different and because the commenters are not physicians, I decided to make another appointment with my doctor. It was time for a follow-up anyway.

He stretched me this way and that and asked about my pain. I told him that since my cortisone injection in the middle of January, I haven’t felt that same sharp pain. And my thickened tendon that caused the swelling (and the majority of my pain) completely disappeared.

“That is excellent!” the doctor told me. “I often have patients who get the cortisone, and then two weeks later they are in pain again. Those are the patients I recommend surgery to. It is a very good sign that your pain hasn’t returned.”

Happy with this news, but still concerned (after all, one of the commenters said my doctor was misleading me!) I brought up the fact of labral tears never actually healing.

“If I MRI’d a group of people off the street,” the doctor explained, “a bunch of them would show labral tears.” It turns out that labral tears are extremely common, but are often asymptomatic so people do all sorts of activities without even knowing they have a tear. I felt my injury because of the inflamed tendon, and my acupuncturist felt hers because of a cyst that developed in the area — but for many people, the tear is so deep inside they never know it is there. And if that is just random people off the street, imagine how much more prevalent this is likely to be in the running community.

This means that many people do in fact run marathons with labral tears. While some bad cases would need surgery, a person can run a marathon without it. This doesn’t mean that I will definitely be able to run, but it also doesn’t mean I won’t.

My doctor — who, by the way, is one of a very small group of doctors in the city who specializes in hip arthroscopy — said that there is no reason someone as young as me, who is not currently experiencing pain, to need surgery. As for the comment comparing my situation to A-Rod, well that is apples to oranges. Not only does he um, lift heavy weights and do much more intense workouts, he also has (as my doctor made a point to explain) 10 years on me. And a baseball career. And not all labral tears are the same.

I am young. I have the luxury of time. If I can’t run the marathon, I don’t need to. Just because A-Rod needed surgery for a labral tear does not mean I can’t achieve my goals without the same surgery. Different degree of injury, different goals, different needs. The claim that his doctors are better than mine for not “letting him heal or waiting until December” is silly because his situation is totally different.

My doctor never told me the labrum would “heal itself” as that commenter implied. What he did tell me  is that it is possible to work around a torn labrum since many people do this every day. As for a sabotaging my “complete and full recovery” — that commenter seemed to contradict herself, after just saying recovery was not possible. And while the tear is forever,  some people can continue with their lives without getting surgery.

My doctor is a surgeon. He makes money from surgery. If a surgeon talks you OUT of surgery, don’t you think he has a good reason for that? It is in his best interest to cut me open. But he seems to be looking out for mine. Also, this surgery is new. Hip arthroscopy is only 5-10 years old in the United States. My doctor told me that the surgery technique this year is far better than it was last year. Next year, he explained, the surgery will be even better. Every year is another year this surgery has been around, and another year of knowledge. If there is no rush and I can function, why get surgery now when it will be better next year?

And he would not perform surgery on someone who is not in pain. He told me that as long as I am not hurting, I could try to start to slowly build up with my running. A slow mile, see how I do. Stop if I feel any pain at all. Increase. Repeat.

Obviously this is the news I wanted to hear, and my doctor was logical and made complete sense.

But because I don’t intend to take my situation lightly, I made an appointment for a second opinion with another hip specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery. I brought my MRI images to show him.

When the doctor came into the room, he stretched my leg a few different ways, saying “So you hurt yourself training for the marathon?”

“No,” I replied. “I didn’t start to train yet, but I would like to this year.”

“But you were supposed to run the marathon last year.”

Where did he get this from? “No, I am supposed to run it this year.”

“Why didn’t you run it last year?”

“Because I didn’t get into it last year.”

This visit was off to a strange start. The doctor sat down on a wheeling stool, looked at directly at me and asked me if I am healthy.

“Yes, very healthy,” I told the doctor. He looked at me doubtfully.

“Do you eat meat?”


“Do you drink milk?”


“Then you are not healthy.”

And he said it with a smirk.  If there is one thing that bothers me, it is a misinformed doctor. Even more than that, a misinformed, arrogant doctor.

(There are plenty of ways to be healthy without eating meat — in fact, there is a great deal of evidence that avoiding animal products is the best way to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses. Brendan Brazier’s Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life offers incredible resources for athletes. And then there is Scott Jurek, the vegan ultramarathoner. He’s doing pretty well if you ask me. I am a vegetarian, and while I am not vegan, I do try to avoid animal products as often as possible. With my GI illness, this has helped me immensely.)

I told the doctor that I am, in fact, very healthy and that I have done a lots research about this — and had blood tests. He smugly shook his head. Then:

You are too fragile and pale to run a marathon. Some people will never be able to run a marathon and you are one of them.”

I was confounded. First, by fragile I can only assume he means thin. Yes, I am a relatively small person. I have small bones. I know that he thinks I am only small because I don’t eat meat or drink milk, but when I used to do those things I looked exactly the same as I do now.

I am strong. I work out hard. And in theory, wouldn’t being smaller make me a better runner? I don’t know, but his claim still sounded ridiculous. Maybe plausible?

But pale

I didn’t take the morning off work and trek all the way to the East River to talk about my porcelain skin tone. I was there to hear what he had to say about my MRI and whether he agreed with my other doctor that I could try to slowly build up my running.

“You are fragile and pale. You are clearly lacking Vitamin D and calcium. You are going to get a stress fracture. I see many stress fractures, and every woman looks exactly like you.”

Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. First, I didn’t go to the doctor to ask if I would one day get a stress fracture due to my “unhealthy” diet, pale skin and small frame.

Next, since when does the shade of one’s skin have any effect on their athletic ability? That is absurd! Yes, I am pale. I was born with pale skin. I heard it has to do with some newfangled scientific theory, something called genetics? Heard of that? Apparently we inherit traits from our family, and we, like, look like them or something. Crazy! Answers a lot of questions I had about my fro, though.

The doctor told me to get plenty of sun. When it is nice out, I do! But, I do not get tan. I get freckles. I will always be pale. Light skin does NOT indicate a Vitamin D or calcium or any other type of deficiency. At least not if you looked like this your entire life.

Dismissing his ridiculous claims, I turned the conversation to the reason I was there: just how bad is this tear and is my other doctor right in telling me I can try to run?

“Almost every MRI will show a labral tear,” he said. “It means nothing. Yes, yours shows a tear, but we can’t know for sure you really have a tear unless we open you up and look inside.”

Despite the fact that this doctor was . . . lacking . . . he did say the exact same thing as my other doctor about the general population and labral tears. Lots of people are walking around with possible tears, the MRIs of random people will show this, and it does not necessarily indicate a serious problem when there is no pain.

“Can I try to slowly build up my running?”

“Sure. But stop if you feel pain because you are going to get a stress fracture.”

Fine. Done. I can try to run. I will stop when I feel pain, which I would have done anyway, having learned my lesson the hard way about ignoring symptoms, getting myself into this situation in the first place. That is what I was there to hear.

I am nervous. I am scared. I will give running a try. I actually started last week and felt fine, but I am taking it really slowly and paying close attention to any signs of pain.

All I can say is — I am so happy that this was not the first doctor I went to about my hip.

Did a doctor ever tell you something ridiculous?


37 comments on Too Pale to Run a Marathon

  1. Ali @ Ali on the Run
    March 15, 2011 at 9:53 am (7 years ago)

    Oh my gosh. So much doctor drama! I feel for you, Dori. I can’t comment on most of the stuff the doctors are saying because I’m no doctor myself. The pale comment is interesting though. Every time I go to the doctor, I’m told I look like I’m getting too much sun! I use moisturizer with SPF daily, but it’s always one of the first things my physician says.

    Also, not a fan of the comment about you being unhealthy because you don’t drink milk or eat meat. That’s a sign of a close-minded doctor, who isn’t open to alternative lifestyles like vegetarianism or veganism.

    Keep taking care of yourself, girl. I say it’s ALWAYS smart to get a second — or third, or fourth — opinion. You may not always get the answer you want to hear, but at least you’ll have strong forces backing you up.
    Ali @ Ali on the Run´s last blog post ..The Monday Rundown

  2. Stephanie @ Thorns Have Roses
    March 15, 2011 at 10:05 am (7 years ago)

    Man. Some doctors CAN be such assballs. I say prove.him.wrong. (haha…although make sure you ARE getting plenty of Vitamin D) :) :) :)

  3. Eliz@The Sweet Life
    March 15, 2011 at 10:06 am (7 years ago)

    what a totally, utterly ridiculous thing for a doctor to say! that would make me so mad. how do people like that still have jobs???? grr.
    Eliz@The Sweet Life´s last blog post ..Money &amp Marriage

  4. Amber
    March 15, 2011 at 10:13 am (7 years ago)

    I am so glad you went to the first doctor first! What a narrow-minded miserable little person (the second doctor of course). I can’t wait until you prove him wrong.

  5. Kara
    March 15, 2011 at 10:26 am (7 years ago)

    Wow, I have never been to a doctor like that! One time a doctor said to my husband (an injured Marine) “If you were a horse, they would have put you down”, but I think the pale comment tops that!

  6. melissa
    March 15, 2011 at 10:40 am (7 years ago)

    It’s a very interesting tale of two doctors, but I think what they said makes perfect sense. Even if, as you said, you would have done that on your own!

    I once had a doctor tell me I would be deaf in months and that to save my hearing I should go on chemotherapy for two years. At the time, everyone was telling me he was a genius. Thank god I got a second opinion!
    melissa´s last blog post ..Running is a Battlefield

  7. Chika
    March 15, 2011 at 10:45 am (7 years ago)

    I cannot believe these doctors sometimes!! I have a Vitamin D deficiency, and you know I’m anything but pale! And, I haven’t had milk since I was a teenager (upsets my stomach, like you). I’m glad you did get the second opinion, but it goes to show that no professional knows your body or your health status as well as you do.

    That guy sounds like a typical surgeon…and a real yahoo!

    I’m glad you are getting better…be good to yourself!


  8. Mallory
    March 15, 2011 at 11:45 am (7 years ago)

    I really think you are doing a fabulous job of exploring your options and learning how to listen to your body to take care of yourself. You have come a long way from your crazy spinning days!

    I also love the way your blog has developed to really mirror your journey and bring your readers along with your struggles and successes. And while it is nice to have your friends agreeing with your posts, what a compliment to have people care enough to disagree with you and have a conversation about it in your comments.

    I ALSO love that you are pale and will always attach that image with the trip to Splish Splash when your lips turned blue and we made you go sit in the sun to warm up :)
    Mallory´s last blog post ..Craft time!

    • Dori
      March 15, 2011 at 11:46 am (7 years ago)

      My lips turned blue because it was way too cold to go to the water park!

      • Dori
        March 15, 2011 at 11:46 am (7 years ago)

        But remember when I got hypothermia at your wedding rafting?

      • Mallory
        March 15, 2011 at 11:48 am (7 years ago)

        You are the coldest person alive! EVER! Plenty of people were at the water park that day and were not turning blue!
        Mallory´s last blog post ..Craft time!

    • Matthew
      March 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm (7 years ago)

      At Splish Slash you went to relax on the authentic cement beach.

      • Dori
        March 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm (7 years ago)

        Such is my commitment to Vitamin D.

  9. Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine
    March 15, 2011 at 11:47 am (7 years ago)

    Ugh that second doc sounds terrible!! My dad is an orthopedic and sees plenty of stress fractures, but he totally supports the way I eat. You’re fine :)

    I’m glad you got the good doctor’s go-ahead for the marathon, though. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate whether we actually feel good or if we’re just trying to convince ourselves we’re okay, so getting a professional opinion always helps! Good luck with the training. Like you said, just listen to your body and you’ll be okay :)
    Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine´s last blog post ..Spanish Seafood Lovin

  10. Michelle
    March 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm (7 years ago)

    Wow. I’m sure that second doctor made you feel like shit, but at least you’ll have some good motivation moving forward. Prove him wrong.

    Thanks for sharing your journey and congrats on the NBC gig!

  11. Aj
    March 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm (7 years ago)

    Considering that animal product can prevent the absorption of calcium and vitamin d…yeah that doctor sounds like a quack. I’m glad you had the first experience first.

    I had a medical resident tell me there was a high likelihood I had cancer and I should plan for doing chemo (this was right before I was scheduled to defend my dissertation and then move cross country) and then leave me alone in an exam room for 20 minutes while she went and got the doctor…
    Aj´s last blog post ..Toasty Tuesday- I can get behind that

  12. Christophe
    March 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm (7 years ago)

    Hey Dori. I can’t believe how stupid that doctor was. Porcelain skin= unhealthy? wha…? Anyhow, you may want to look into seeing an Osteopath in the future. They have a whole body approach to healthcare. They will look at joint and bone alignment, muscle imbalances, diet etc. I know one. He’s awesome. He was a gymnast with Kerry and I, had a labrum tear in his shoulder that really did require surgery (his arm was falling out of the socket), and is now training for triathalons…again. He also studied eastern medicine. All in all, an Osteo may give you a different perspective on your ailments and physical training. Maybe, if you’d like, you can come to queens and get examined by my super awesome doctor friend. Let me know.

  13. Lauren @ Hungry Child in the City
    March 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm (7 years ago)

    Oy Dori! Those comments are not nice. I have seen so many doctors for so many different things, but I think the best ever was: “Yes, Lauren, you have a stress fracture in your foot. If you want to go ahead and run a half marathon anyway, then by all means do it. Your body, your choice.” He was the best orthepedist ever. I love that he just told me to do whatever I wanted. You know what? I ran that half marathon anyway, and it was awesome. Hurt like hell, but it was a great feeling at the end, so totally worth it!!!! Do what your mind and body tell you are best. You know better than anyone else how you feel!
    Lauren @ Hungry Child in the City´s last blog post ..Pastrami Amazing

  14. katherine
    March 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm (7 years ago)

    Please do not listen to the doctor, there is nothing unhealthy about being a vegan as long as you eat right. There’s actually many studies that eating meat/dairy the way it is processed in the US is extremely unhealthy.

    Hang in there! and don’t let anyone squash you’re dreams of running a marathon, you can do it!
    katherine´s last blog post ..Beating the cold

  15. Caroline
    March 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm (7 years ago)

    So I found your blog recently and I just had to comment on this post. I have hopes of going into medicine in the future, so I have very strong opinions on the Dr/Patient relationship. I don’t know anything about the actual injury, so I won’t comment on that, but I just want to say that the second doctor sounds like a pompous ass. I wish I could say that I’m shocked..but I’m not. It’s all too common to come across arrogant docs these days. Find a doc you trust and feel comfortable with, even if he doesn’t always say what you want to hear. Good luck!!
    Caroline´s last blog post ..Pie Day

  16. Laura Georgina
    March 16, 2011 at 10:02 am (7 years ago)

    Oh my goodness. That doctor sounds like a nightmare. I would have been in all kinds of angry tears at him.

    I’ve had many a terrible doctor’s experience since moving to Trinidad. There ARE really great doctors here…. but you need to know where to find them, which I didn’t for a long time. I once went to get my BC pills and my doctor would not give me a prescription because she said I was too old to NOT have had kids yet (I was 29 at the time!) and because “it’s bad for women to be on them for a long time or more than just in between pregnancies.” She told me she’d recommend natural solutions and some kind of weird herb, but wouldn’t give me a birth control prescription.

    She also failed to tell me that you can buy them over the counter here–which I promptly did after talking to a Trini friend and explaining my situation.

    Maybe our doctors went to the same school?

  17. Shelley
    March 17, 2011 at 3:08 am (7 years ago)

    Um, how do some doctors even get accredited? You did well to keep sitting there, if it was me and he made the pale comment (I’m pale too and couldn’t tan to save my life) I would have laughed in his face and walked out.

    Sounds like you are doing everything right, best of luck with the marathon training!
    Shelley´s last blog post ..My First Year of Blogging!

  18. Heather @ Side of Sneakers
    March 17, 2011 at 10:05 am (7 years ago)

    Wow what an a-hole! There is NO way to tell by looking at someone if they can run a marathon or are healthy. I know a lot of people are misinformed about vegetarianism but goodness gracious!! A doctor should at least be clued in – and know better than to tell you you’re not healthy because of it!

    • Dori
      March 17, 2011 at 10:07 am (7 years ago)

      AND I was there about a labral tear, not a possible future stress fracture! Absurd. And it’s not like I am all bones or anything, I eat a lot and I do look healthy. My skin isn’t grey-pale, it is ivory. Like a princess!

  19. Carolyn @ Lovin' Losing
    March 17, 2011 at 10:13 am (7 years ago)

    Some doctors should stick to research and not see patients. My husband saw a dermatologist a few years ago who saw some skin discoloration and told him he needed to see his primary care physician right away because he either had pancreatic cancer of diabetes. Of course he had neither, but boy were we freaked out for a while.
    Carolyn @ Lovin’ Losing´s last blog post ..Happy St Patrick’s Day

  20. Bridget@LifeLibertyandMe
    March 17, 2011 at 10:18 am (7 years ago)

    Wow. I am not pale or thin and I managed to get a stress fracture. That has nothing to do with it!!
    I think doctors need a lot more nutritional training then they get in school. It’s just an important part of our health, why aren’t they more well informed?
    Not all doctors are like that though-I’ve had some excellent doctors and PAs that really listened to me and worked with me.
    I have no doubt you can train for the marathon!

  21. Julia
    March 17, 2011 at 11:21 am (7 years ago)


    Sounds like you have done a lot of research into what is right for you in terms of your injury. I made the decision that surgery was right for me but sounds like you have decided to try other options. I think everyone needs to make up their mind as to what is best for you and a doctor can’t be the one to tell you what that is. My doctor wanted me to do cortizone and I wanted to just get the surgery and be done. Be sure to take it easy with your training (as always) and listen to your body. I think you can do anything you put your mind to!

    And- I totally agree with someoneelse’s opinion nurse practitioners and PA’s are generally wellness based and can probably help! I also have had great luck with chiropractors. I know some people think they are quack’s but they seem to help me. Maybe find a sports chiropractor?

    Best Wishes with your training and I will be sure to follow how it all goes! Good for you for deciding what is best for YOU!

  22. Jess
    March 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm (7 years ago)

    All I can say is UGH. What a lot of doctor drama going on for you. I’m so sorry :( And I’m sorry that you got some comments that made you second guess, that’s not really fair either. Oof. I feel for you girl! Hang in there.
    Jess´s last blog post ..Well- that happened…

  23. cameo
    March 18, 2011 at 6:10 am (7 years ago)

    I hate HSS. They screwed me. I also hate arrogant doctors. I went to a doc recently who I see bi-annually. He was looking at my weight from 3 or 4 yrs ago rather than since my last visit, by mistake, this was *pre-GSD diagnosis, hence training like mad* and says, “you’ve put on quite a bit of weight.” (when in reality, I’ve lost 13 lbs since my last visit…) He then went on to school me about the Atkins diet and told me to cut out my fruits…and all carbs…and subside on meat, eggs and cheese. I didn’t want to get into it. But I left thinking I need to find a new doctor. Dori, your skin is lovely, BTW. WTF is wrong with being pale? Grrr….

  24. MelissaNibbles
    March 18, 2011 at 8:42 am (7 years ago)

    I’m sorry you had to sit and listen to that. You should definitely start tanning and eating steak so you can run a marathon.
    MelissaNibbles´s last blog post ..Unsatisfied &amp Its OK!

  25. marie
    March 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm (7 years ago)

    Are you EFFING kidding me? I can’t believe he said that. I’m actually wondering if someone didn’t wander in off the street and kidnap your doctor. (“We’ve replaced Dori’s doctor with this asshat, let’s see if she notices!”)

    That said, I think surgery should always be the last resort. Period.
    marie´s last blog post ..when beers exceed mileage

  26. Shae
    March 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm (7 years ago)

    I see doctors with more frequency than most people for non-serious health problems, but BOY have I heard some stupid/rude/awful comments directed towards me. Most recently was when I went to the Dr. because my occipital lymph nodes (The PA I saw didn’t seem like she knew what ‘occipital’ meant…) were swollen and tender to the touch. With NO medical history, no questions to me, the first thing out of this girl’s mouth was “I don’t mean to scare you, but have you been tested for HIV?” Yes. She was serious. I was pretty annoyed that was her first guess as to a diagnosis. It was obviously possible, but LIKELY? No.

  27. MaryBe
    November 16, 2011 at 5:12 am (6 years ago)

    Hasn’t that Dr. read Twilight?? Doesn’t he know that pale is in?? Make sure you e-mail him your Richmond blog post with a big F-U scrawled over it!
    Funny, people always look twice at me when I say I’m vegan. People DO stereotype, whether they believe they do or not. No, I’m not skinny and pale – I’m tan and umm curvy 😀 Unfortunately Fritos are vegan…and Oreos…and dark chocolate!
    I’m glad you didn’t let this stop your dream <3
    MaryBe´s last blog post ..Someone Gets a Facelift


2Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Too Pale to Run a Marathon

  1. […] a hip injury (read about it here and here) that was likely a labral tear. Also, a doctor told me I am too pale to run a marathon. I took six months off of running and went to physical therapy. My physical therapist did not think […]

  2. […] I’m also much less sore this week after 26.2 than last week after 18. And I suppose I am not too pale to run a marathon after […]

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