Bill Stahl is an ultra marathoner who has competed in the grueling Leadville 100 seven times. He recently marked his fourth finish and even though he came in last, it’s a feat he won’t soon forget.
That’s because less than six months earlier Bill, who also serves as coach of Littleton High School’s cross country team, could barely move his neck, let alone run. A nerve injury had left Bill with persistent pain in his neck, making it impossible to run. For help, he turned to Dr. Jatana, who had performed a laminectomy on him five years earlier to repair a bulging disc.
While other doctors had suggested fusion surgeries, Dr. Jatana opted for more conservative treatment options, which appealed to Bill. In fact, two days after his surgery, he served as race director for a local event.
“I liked that his approach all along has been focused on getting me back to doing the things I enjoy and running is my life,” explained Bill.
To address the nerve pain in his neck, Dr. Jatana recommended Bill have steroid injections. After the second one, Bill began to feel some relief and within a few weeks he felt ready to run again. He was already registered for the Leadville 100 when his injury occurred, and though he was two months behind in training, Bill was still committed to competing in the race, which takes runners through a 100-mile course rising from 9,200 feet in elevation to 12,600 feet.
“It was a real cram job,” acknowledged Bill. “In my head, I was thinking, ‘I am absolutely going to do this, but my pacer said, ‘if you finish this, it will be a miracle.’”
Miracle or sheer willpower, Bill pushed through, struggling to reach each aid station before the time cut off.
“I knew that it was straight uphill into Leadville the last three miles. I was really looking forward to seeing my crew at the one-mile-to-go mark,” said Bill. “When I finally got there, there were 17 minutes left until the cutoff, which seemed like just enough time, but then the wheels fell off.”
Still, Bill persevered and with a cheering crowd behind him, finished the race in under 30 hours. His heroic finish can be viewed here.
Thankfully, Bill hasn’t had any further issues with neck pain and says he’s feeling great. But he wouldn’t hesitate to see Dr. Jatana again if any problems arose.
“I appreciate that he is focused on trying to restore your way of life – whether that involves being really active or just playing bridge.”
And yes, Bill expects to participate in more ultra marathons in the future.