In October 2019, 53-year-old Dale Boardman was on vacation in California when he stumbled upon a beach race that was about to take place. The Surfing Madonna Beach Run – on Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, CA – consists of a 10k course that runs on the hand-packed sand alongside the ocean.
Boardman hadn’t been on a run in nearly a year due to some injuries, but he thought the race might be a perfect way to test out how far he had come in his physical therapy. On a whim, Boardman signed up. An hour later, he was standing on the starting line and ready to go. Boardman completed the race in 48 minutes, finishing fifth in his age group and 50th of 650 runners overall.
“I had never experienced that kind of celebratory and supportive atmosphere before,” Boardman said. “The big crowds and people cheering you on; it was really engaging and empowering. I now understand why people participate in these kinds of races.”
Boardman competed as an amateur boxer in his younger years, and had avidly raced motorbikes. He recently returned to boxing in his spare time, but a torn meniscus in April gave him a setback. The meniscus is a small piece of cartilage in the knee that acts as a cushion between your shinbone and thighbone. When torn, it can cause pain, swelling and stiffness. His meniscus was repaired by Dr. Robert Fullick, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute.
After his surgery, Boardman was spending twice a week at The Institute for therapy and trained daily at his local boxing gym in between. Unfortunately, he tore his other meniscus just two months later. But after another quick surgery with Dr. Fullick, Boardman was back in the gym within a few days.
“While it is no surprise that as we age our bodies change, that shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent from participating in activities that you enjoy,” said Keisha Paul, Boardman’s physical therapist at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. “As we get older we slowly lose strength, but even more so, power. It becomes even more important that we challenge our bodies to aid in maintenance of bone density and muscle mass. The best advice I can give is listen to your body. If things don’t feel right, there is a reason for that (at any age) and often that reason is benign. Continue to do what you love and if need be, seek help from a physical therapist to address the movement challenges you are facing.”
Boardman had a restriction in his right ankle as the result of a motorbike accident many years ago. After the injury, he only had half the range of movement in his ankle that he once did.
“I had accepted the injury and been living with it for years,” Boardman said. “I didn’t know I could get it fixed, but the physical therapy helped me regain more movement. The improved range of motion has also helped improve my boxing.”
According to Boardman’s physical therapist, it’s not uncommon that a patient comes in for physical therapy for a certain issue or injury and ends up getting help for a different nagging injury as well.
“In Dale’s case, as a boxer, he needs to be able to be very light on his feet and his movements must be quick,” Paul said. “Dale often tested my creativity because he arrived to therapy quite strong despite his injury and we had to respect healing time while appropriately challenging him.”
While Boardman has been remaining active between his surgeries and physical therapy, testing his strength and endurance in the California race was the icing on the cake.
“You never know what your body might be able to do until you try,” Boardman said. “In the end, if you receive the right advice and put in the right effort, it’s still possible to come out better than you were before.”