How Running Changed Me – Eddie Purtell

Name: Eddie Purtell
Age: 28
Hometown: Denver, Colorado (from Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Execution time : 11 years old
Reason to run: I run because it’s a great form of exercise. I love that you can run anywhere and have amazing views. I’m also running to raise money to find a cure for Neurofibromatosis (NF), which is a genetic disease I’ve had since birth.

My neurofibromatosis (NF) journey began at birth. I was born with a tumor behind my left eye, and at 4 months old I was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1).

NF is a group of genetic disorders that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. Throughout my childhood, I underwent several surgeries and MRIs to monitor tumor growth. When I was 8, I had a 16-hour surgery performed by three surgeons, who attempted to shrink the tumor in my head. This resulted in 52 stitches on the top of my head. After this operation, my doctors continued to monitor the tumor growth, which led to further surgeries. In all, I’ve had over 20 surgeries throughout my life. At this time, I have no procedures planned for the future. I am in excellent health.

My running “career” started in May 2011. I was playing soccer on my high school varsity team and wanted to run more to get in better shape for the soccer season. I felt good when I started running. I was already a good runner having played football almost all my life. Over the years I have definitely improved my pace and distance.

One day in the summer of 2011, I ran a little further than usual. When I got home, I explained to my dad the route I had taken and he said, “Eddie, that’s probably six and a half miles!

My dad had already run a half marathon for NF and was doing another one in about a month. I thought if I could run six and a half miles (which is about half the distance of a half marathon), how hard would it be to go twice as far?

After that first run, I got addicted to running. I’ve done at least one half marathon every year since (apart from 2013 when I had reconstructive jaw surgery), as well as the Chicago Marathon in 2017.

When I first started running, I didn’t really use apps or training plans. I sometimes used MapMyRun to create routes and see how far I was running. Other than that, I did three runs during the week, each around three to five miles, and I did a longer run on the weekends, six to 12 miles. I started fundraising to find a cure for NF through the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF), and knowing I’m having an impact is what drives me. (To date, I’ve raised over $130,000 for NF.)

Currently, I’m getting back into longer runs now that the ski season is over (another passion of mine). Looking ahead, I plan to do a half marathon in the fall and maybe a trail half marathon this summer. I currently do two to three miles four times during the week, and sometimes a four to five mile run on the weekends.

Running has completely changed my life. It’s a simple and effective way to stay in shape. Running makes me feel good and it’s a great way to clear my mind and release stress. If I hadn’t gotten into running, I might never have started fundraising for CFF and would have become the National Ambassador for NF 2022. Although myself and many others were born with NF (or are diagnosed with it later), we are still able to run half marathons and marathons.

These three tips have made my running journey a success:

1. Find good shoes

Every runner is different and will have different preferences. So I recommend going to a running store to find a shoe you like. The right shoe can make all the difference. Having the right shoes has helped me avoid injuries and improve my pace.

2. Create a great playlist

I love music, and it certainly helps to have a great playlist to play on for longer distances. Playlists have helped me keep my energy high on longer runs and can help give me a little kick.

3. Get a fitness watch and a route planner

I would also recommend having some type of fitness watch like Garmin, Fitbit or Apple Watch. This way you can track your runs and see how you are doing and track your progress. Finally, I recommend finding good (and fun) routes around you.

Eddie’s Essential Gear

Altra Torin 5: I recently purchased these shoes and love them. I love the fit and appreciate that they are shaped like the feet which leaves more room in the toe box.

Garmin Forerunner 935: I love Garmin watches because they are great for tracking any activity and the additional data it tracks on your workouts. I also like Garmin’s battery life, which is very important for fitness watches.

Airpods Pro: I love the AirPods Pro. I think these are the best headphones I’ve used for working out or running. In the past, I had issues with headphones staying in my ears while running. I’ve never had a problem with the AirPods staying in place.

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