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Milton resident recovers from head injury to complete marathons

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On March 18, 2015, Milton resident Debbie Anne Knox was training for a marathon. This was nothing new, as in her six years of running experience she had trained for more than 20 marathons and 16 half marathons. What was new was the slip that led to a concussion, leaving her struggling to walk and talk for the next six months. Not one to be deterred, Knox not only bounced back, but was able to complete the Honolulu Marathon last December and the Huntington Beach marathon in February.

“I have had a really difficult year. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I stuttered, and as soon as I could I started walking again. Honolulu was a goal. I’ve done New York, I’ve done Boston, and it was on my list,” Knox said.

Because it was on her list, Knox was determined to make Honolulu a reality for her.

“I would be out with my walker thing and I would fall over and get up. My sister would look at me and say, ‘Really, Debbie?’ and I would say, ‘It’s on my list,’” Knox said.

Knox didn’t give up, and on Dec. 13 she stood in Honolulu at 5 a.m. ready to run 26 miles. Her doctors had medically cleared her, but her family still showed reservations about her competing, but not for health reasons – they were worried about how hard she would take it should she be unable to finish.

“I have two sisters that I’m very close to and they were sending me texts throughout. They were just sobbing in excitement for me having finished it. I don’t even think they thought I would get hurt; they were worried I wouldn’t make it, and I would be disappointed,” Knox said.

That failure didn’t happen. In tears, Knox crossed both the finish line and another goal off of her list.

“I couldn’t believe when I saw the finish line. I ran across it and they put the medal over my head and I burst into tears. They said, ‘Are you okay?’ and I said, ‘I’m way better than okay,’” Knox said.

Knox has continued to train, and last month she competed in a marathon at Huntington Beach. She planned to take it easy and maybe just walk it, but her inner fire gave her the extra spark she needed to go full throttle.

“I was nervous about that one. I wasn’t going to do a full run. I was going to walk but I wasn’t sure whether I was ready for it. It was a different nervous. I had one of those days that was like Forest Gump – it felt effortless and that doesn’t happen often with running. Something usually hurts. I ran it and I just kept running,” Knox said.

Knox credits a competitive spirit against herself that not only allowed her to run, but also pushed her to recover.

“I have a competitive attitude against myself. When I get to a run, I don’t run with people; I’m just off in my world. There’s been times I’ve missed turns because I’m off in my own world. I got lost in a half marathon. I am competitive just to push myself. At least in my running, if I don’t feel competitive I tend to internalize,” Knox said. “I don’t know what it is. I just think I like to be busy and give myself plans and a goal to reach.”

Knox shows no sign of slowing down in 2016. she’s currently preparing for a relay race from Blaine to Seattle and a Santa Rosa Marathon in August. Though Knox has overcome major obstacles in her life, she believes anyone can do what she does if they put their mind to it.
“I find it really interesting that most people can run for two minutes, take a break and then go again. The only difference between them a runner is a race number. If you can go and you can keep running, you’re a runner.”