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Marathon mom counts on Adventist Paulson Rehab for physical therapy
Media contact: Lisa Parro, senior public relations specialist, Lisa.parro@ahss.org

La Grange – When Clarendon Hills mother of five Colleen Sullivan hits “the wall” during marathon training, she turns to Linda Henson at Adventist Paulson Rehabilitation, Willowbrook, for practical and moral support.

That’s because Henson, an ex-marathon runner with 25 years of orthopedic physical therapy experience, shares Sullivan’s zeal for running. To date, Henson has helped Sullivan through four different marathons. Both have “hit the wall,” a phenomenon runners experience during a race when their energy level drops significantly and they simply can’t run consistently any longer.

“Runners are an interesting breed,” Henson said. “If you’re a runner, you know where other runners are coming from. When Colleen can’t run, I understand how much that bothers her.”

At this year’s Boston Marathon, Sullivan was the 10th female winner from Illinois to cross the finish line. She placed 3,212 overall out of 26,000 runners and 293 out of 11,000 women. She plans to compete in the Chicago Marathon in October.

“Participating in marathons gives me a sense of accomplishment,” said Sullivan, a 34-year-old home daycare provider. “When you’re a stay-at-home mom of five kids ranging in age from 4 to 11, you’re always one load of laundry away from another one waiting to be washed. It’s fun to set your mind on something else. Running keeps me sane.”

Sullivan ran her first marathon on a whim. She and several friends chose to run the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon & Relay in May 2008 because one of the women lived near the event. Sullivan bought some training guides and hit the pavement.

“I assumed working with a trainer would cost too much and, anyway, my money goes to the kids,” Sullivan said. “I thought no running group would want someone who could only go a handful of miles and I had no friends (nearby) training for a marathon.”

During training, Sullivan and most of her friends injured themselves; they were unable to finish the Vermont marathon. Sullivan tore her Achilles tendon, precipitating her first visit to Adventist Paulson Rehab. As she recovered, the idea of signing up for another marathon nagged at her, so she continued training. She completed the Indianapolis Marathon in October 2008 and the Boston Marathon in April 2009.

In June, Sullivan made a deal with her 11-year-old daughter: she would sign up for an independent running club if her daughter, who also liked running, would join one at school. Both had been reluctant since neither one knew other members in the respective clubs. On the first day, Sullivan almost changed her mind.

“I hadn’t realized I would be one of just two women in the group,” Sullivan said. “I wanted to crawl back into my car.”

But she stuck with it and discovered that miles flew past when training with a group. Sullivan runs with the club six days a week and logs up to 63 miles each week.
Sullivan said the 2009 Boston Marathon went well until mile 18 when she encountered hills. Undaunted, in October 2009, Sullivan participated in the Chicago Marathon and improved her time by 24 minutes. She attributes the accomplishment to consistent practice with the running club.

With a laugh, Sullivan said she never completes training without hurting something, whether it’s her knees or her tendons. With intense training for many miles, injury is almost inevitable, Henson said. During therapy, she suggests alternate work-outs and strategies for modified pacing until healing occurs.

“Linda is fantastic,” Sullivan said. “She’s treated me with ultrasound therapy, deep tissue massage and has shown me how to stretch and tape at home. I also enjoy her many marathon horror stories.”

The pleasure is all Henson’s, a runner who vicariously relives her marathon days through Sullivan.

“I totally understand where Colleen is coming from and why she does what she does, which helps me treat her,” Henson said. “She’s in phenomenal shape; Colleen is an inspiration.”

Adventist Paulson Rehab, Willowbrook, is located at 619 Plainfield Road, Willowbrook. Call (630) 856-8200 for more information.