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This Marathon Runner is Back After Spinal Surgery

November 08, 2017
This Marathon Runner is Back After Spinal Surgery

Left: Brett Larson running the 2014 Kansas City Marathon.

Brett Larson had run 27 marathons in 24 different states and was working towards his goal of finishing a marathon in all 50 states.

But after a freak accident, he wasn't even sure there would be another marathon, much less a 50th.

"As I was getting luggage out of the back of my vehicle, the tail gate closed on its own hitting my head at just the right angle and compressed my spine," recalled Brett. "Within days, I was in severe pain. I tried every conservative treatment option - chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture - for a year and a half, and still the condition worsened. The initial MRI showed a disc herniation of C6-C7. In completely debilitating pain at this point, a new MRI showed the herniation had doubled in size and surgery was the next best option."

Brett searched for hours for any information he could find about various procedures, surgery options and the impacts to running or an active lifestyle. "Dr. Mullaney's name kept coming up," said Brett. "I wanted someone who would understand the mind of a runner, as that it is my livelihood. Someone who wouldn't simply tell me you're going to have surgery and you're going to have to find a new hobby. Quite frankly, I was terrified of surgery on my neck and the long-term ramifications of that, and I wanted to ensure if I was to go through with it, I was getting the best surgeon possible. A chance encounter with another running friend who had surgery with Dr. Mullaney reaffirmed that I was in the best hands possible. I was encouraged when Dr. Mullaney explained why he felt like I was a perfect candidate for an artificial disc replacement procedure.

Brett Larson with his care team from Twin Cities Spine at St. Francis, Kevin Mullaney, MD and Sean Thomas, PA-C

This was my first ever stay in a hospital. The team that cared for me at St. Francis was amazing. Everyone was so kind, so patient, and I remember thinking, nurses really are unsung heroes. Dr. Mullaney was friendly, funny and took time to re-assure me and answer all my questions and put my mind at ease. The experience was fantastic. While at St. Francis, I learned that the president of the hospital is a fellow '50 state marathon finisher in progress' like myself. How cool is that?" Brett remarked.

In March of 2017, just six weeks post-surgery, Brett ran again for the first time in over 4 months. It was the first "pain free" run in over 2 years. He made it three miles on that first run back. In the months following, he was able to finish a half marathon in May, a full marathon in Montana in July, followed by two marathons in two days in New Hampshire and Maine in September. He also worked in a 50K in October. Brett declares himself "back in the saddle!"

"I'm sharing my story because quite simply, it's what I wanted to find when I was looking. I would have loved to encounter a story just like mine, where someone truly got their life back," acknowledged Brett. "Hopefully the next person who is searching for surgery options, wishing for their debilitating pain to go away and to reclaim their active lifestyle, but possibly questioning and scared of the next steps, can find my story and know there's hope. Here's to coming back!"

Follow Brett's steps on his running blog,

Dr. Kevin Mullaney, Twin Cities Spine Center, is a fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine and has been named a Mpls. St.Paul Magazine "Top Doctor" from 2013-2017. If you would like to learn more about Dr. Mullaney, visit his web page here.

Category: Surgery