Get up at 4 a.m.; run between 5 and 6:30 a.m.; teach fourth graders; lift weights after work; swim or cycle after that, then house duties and bed. This is the regular schedule that Amy Dodson follows daily.
“I have those days when I talk myself out of working out, but rarely. And by ‘rarely’ I mean a couple of times a year,” said Dodson.
Dodson has been running long distance since 1998. “I’ve always loved running, especially long distance,” said Dodson. “I would watch the Wide World of Sports and the long distance runners fascinated me.”
The big ‘C’
Dodson isn’t your typical runner. She runs with a prosthetic running foot. Dodson was diagnosed with cancer in her foot at age 12.
“I had pain since I was nine or 10,” Dodson said. “Even with the tumor in my foot, I’d still do gym. I loved the one-mile run every week in junior high.”
In high school, the tumor was removed the first time. It was removed again while in college, and at age 19, Dodson’s left leg was amputated.
“I had a year of chemotherapy and it was bad,” said Dodson. “The doctors told me that if the cancer returned, it would be in the lung.”
The cancer did come back, and the lower lobe of her left lung was removed. But Dodson held an interesting perspective.
“I had been in so much pain for most of my life that to be rid of the pain and gaining a pain-free life was worth the removal of my leg.”
Got the drive
Dodson took on the challenge of long distance running when a friend mentioned sponsoring a race.
“I said, ‘I’d like to do that,’ and my friend said ‘Why don’t you?’
“It was like a truck hit me. There’s no excuse; why don’t I?” said Dodson.
But then, Dodson didn’t have the running leg she has now. She described it as a “clunky leg.” “I just wanted to do it so bad, it didn’t matter how hard it was. Now, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my old leg!”
Finding her place
The first goal Dodson had was to finish a 5K (3.1 miles). Not only has Dodson accomplished that, she has run many more miles. In 2009 alone, she has completed three 50-mile races.
“People ask me how I can do that crazy stuff. I don’t know. I just want to do it so badly; it’s so much fun,” said Dodson.
The running world has embraced Dodson with open arms. To those in that world, an amputee runner is just as much an athlete as any other. Dodson found her place among the pack. She’s planning to run a 100-mile race in June 2010.
The right fit
Having a good prosthetist has been key to Dodson’s success. When she moved to Michigan due to her then-husband’s job in Adrian, Dodson called the manufacturer of her leg and asked about the best prosthetist in Michigan. Enter Jan (pronounced Yohn) Stokosa.
“Jan is the best. All of his work is strictly below the knee, and he has someone he works with that is strictly above the knee.” Dodson said, “I remember living in a little town in Tennessee and having no access to a prosthetist, and then coming to Lansing and meeting Jan … He knew all kinds of things and could turn that into something personalized just for you,” said Dodson.
Capital City, here she comes
Dodson’s love of running is bringing her from the Tuscan, AZ, area to the capital city. She will be taking part in her first Capital City River Run on Sunday, September 27.
“Mike Bills contacted me and invited me to come. There was an article about me in the [Lansing State Journal] paper and that’s when he got the idea to get in touch with me.”
Not only is Dodson running in the half marathon, she will also be speaking at a spaghetti dinner held at Impression 5 Science Center, the beneficiary of the race’s funds, in Lansing the night before, September 26.
“Jan and I will be doing this talk together,” said Dodson. “He’s going to cover the technical side of prosthetic limbs and the tie-in with science, and I’m going to talk about the athletic side.”
Dodson’s story definitely puts the challenge out there for anyone who wants to make excuses for not going after what they want. But probably for her the biggest challenge is the next race.