Regular Running Wards Off Doctor’s Family Health Issues
May 19, 2016 by Kavita Sherman, writer
With a family history of high blood pressure and a penchant for eating unhealthy foods, running provides the right counterbalance for pediatric orthopedic surgeon Patrick Riley Jr.
“Even when I played sports during high school, my blood pressure was borderline high,” he said. “Since I started running regularly about 4 years ago, all my labs/vitals have been perfect.”
Initially, running wasn’t Dr. Riley’s activity of choice.
“I used to view running as a kind of punishment during high school sports,” he said. “We’d have to do 2 miles and I remember thinking, ‘This is truly torture. People who do this as a sport are nuts.'”
That changed during medical school. It started slowly with a few miles here or there during the week as a way to clear his head. Then, the running bug really took hold during his first year of residency when he was asked to fill in on an Akron Marathon relay team.
“It was my first experience with a big race,” Dr. Riley said. “My senior resident said, ‘C’mon Riley. You run my part of the relay for me.’ Since I didn’t want to say no to my senior resident, I ran his leg of the relay. I remember thinking, ‘This is pretty cool,’ and really liked the atmosphere and competition of it.”
After that, Dr. Riley continued to run and compete. At first, he signed up for 5K and 10K runs and ran on various relay teams during the Akron Marathon.
As his medical residency call schedule got easier over the years, he was able to fit in more runs to train for a half, and then a full, marathon. Since 2013, Dr. Riley has run 7 marathons and 2 ultramarathons, which is any distance greater than the traditional 26.2-mile marathon race.
Now settled into his medical practice in the Akron area, Dr. Riley regularly runs and trains for the longer distances he’s grown to enjoy.
A favorite training spot is the Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail, a major, multi-purpose trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. He even keeps exercise clothes at his office in case he gets a chance to run after work or before heading home to his wife and 3 small children.
Dr. Riley finds running to be the perfect anecdote to his busy days.
“At the end of the day, I’m mentally fatigued,” said Dr. Riley. “No matter how tired I am, just going outside and running is like pressing the reset button on my brain. It clears my head and I’m ready to keep going.”
As a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Riley spends his days addressing issues related to the care of bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and more. He’s heard people say that running causes knee pain and, in fact, has covered the topic on the hospital’s Inside Children’s blog.
“The research is showing that running potentially helps to thicken your cartilage, which may have a protective effect on your joints,” he said. “Also it helps to reduce weight and a person’s overall body mass index, which is also good for bones and joints.”
Keeping weight off is a motivator of his, too.
“I love to eat bad things,” said Dr. Riley with a laugh. “When you run, you feel like a good beer after a marathon or a donut now and then is okay. Also, I love getting the medals at the races.”
For more information on the 2016 Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series, visit www.akronmarathon.org.
This story is part of a series called A Mile in My Shoes that features Akron Children’s Hospital employees who are participating in the Akron Marathon Race Series.