From a Ski Accident to Running a Half Marathon — How One PEOPLE Staffer Conquered Her Injury

·6 min read
From a Ski Accident to Running a Half Marathon — How One PEOPLE Staffer Conquered Her Injury

I was skiing with my parents in Utah in January 2020 when I had the inspiration to run a future half-marathon. I actually texted my boyfriend asking if he'd be game. But life had other plans: That week I was in a skiing accident and fully tore my ACL, the ligament that holds together the knee and meniscus. Instead of hitting the pavement to log training miles, I was headed to the hospital for surgery — followed by a 9-12 month recovery program.

The diagnosis was overwhelming, and I could barely get my mind around next steps. Two months later, back at home in L.A., doctors put my leg together in a 90-minute surgery. It was one of the final elective procedures allowed before the country shut down due to COVID.

The goal, said Johanna Oda, physician assistant at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan Jobe Institute, was "to have full range of motion, minimal swelling and good quadriceps activation." Sounded good to me.

Lanae Brody
Lanae Brody

Courtesy Lanae Brody PEOPLE Senior Reporter Lanae Brody gives a thumbs up before having ACL and meniscus surgery.

However, I wasn't prepared for life post-ACL surgery. Rehab was tedious — I hated that I had to swap weight machines at the gym for physical therapy devices that moved my leg a few degrees in a single direction. That, along with icing my leg, became my life for months.

I couldn't get my own meals or drinks because I was on crutches; sweats with pockets were my new uniform. Showering solo was impossible since I couldn't bend my leg or stand. My mom would wrap my leg in a trash bag to protect it from the water and lift me onto a bench where she'd shave my one leg. I'd ask her to go away so I could sit and cry from the emotional pain that had built up.

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As COVID cases skyrocketed, my parents wanted to go back home to Scottsdale, Arizona. I couldn't do anything on my own, so they packed me up in the car kicking and screaming to join them for what I thought would be two weeks max. I went from the high life of covering red carpets in L.A. to sleeping in my childhood bedroom in Scottsdale, Arizona, at age 34.

Soon I was doing manual PT in my parents' backyard. It's a painful but essential part of recovery. I'd get the scar tissue beat out of me until I bruised and cried. I felt like Bambi trying to learn to walk again.

Lanae Brody NYC Marathon
Lanae Brody NYC Marathon

Lanae Brody PEOPLE Senior Reporter Lanae Brody learns how to walk again after tearing her ACL and meniscus.

"With post-ACL reconstruction, the primary goal is to restore knee extension, which means straightening the leg," Cedars-Sinai's Oda explains. I worked with a physical therapist on exercises like towel rolls and prone hang.

Once I could walk my parents' street unassisted, I went back home to L.A.

It was June, and COVID meant there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. So I rehabbed as much as I could. Yet my quad muscle, which naturally shrinks with this surgery, wasn't improving — and my knee pain and swelling were prevalent. I was sent to a facility called Elite Orthosport, where my new physical therapist Christine Ovanesian was no joke. On days I didn't see her, I did what I could to feel "normal," like going to Barry's to strength train. I even purchased an at-home SoulCycle bike.

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I ended up needing another surgery in December 2020 to clean out the scar tissue that blocked my joint and prevented it from bending and straightening properly — likely the result of my inability to obtain proper PT with clinics closed down during the pandemic.

After my second surgery, I felt like I was back at square one. It was (literally) a pain to deal with the inflammation during the holidays, so I sought out leg compression treatments and cryotherapy at Reset by Therabody.

On top of that, I always had my physical therapist Ovanesian's voice in the back of my head: "Keep the swelling down, make sure you get your full extension and activate that quad!"

As I rehabbed a second time in "beast mode," I begged Ovanesian to help me get me to a place where I could run the NYC Half Marathon in March 2022. Despite wanting to do this race, I confessed to her that I had never run a block in my life. Something about the idea made me feel powerful, that I could overcome anything.

Lanae Brody
Lanae Brody

Courtesy Lanae Brody PEOPLE Senior Reporter Lanae Brody poses after a blood flow restriction exercise at physical therapy.

I was 36 years old when I ran my first mile on Thanksgiving Day 2021. Two days later, I did two. I felt confident for the first time since before my accident, so I threw my name into the New York Road Runners lottery in hopes of getting an entry to the half marathon.

Lottery day came — and my congratulatory email didn't. But there was still one way in: by fundraising $1,301. The thought of asking people for money during a pandemic seemed daunting.

I quickly did my homework on New York Road Runner's premiere charity, Team For Kids, and was excited to get to work for my bib. The organization raises funds for NYRR's youth and community programs. They assist more than 240,000 students locally and nationally through free youth running programs, events and resources. I met the minimum within a few weeks and booked my ticket to New York.

RELATED: Elite Runner and Full-Time Nurse Will Race the Boston Marathon in Scrubs to Raise Money for Mental Health

Training for the race while raising my son as a single mother, working full-time and rehabbing was not easy. I was often running on little sleep and in a lot of pain.

I signed up for a few 10Ks to practice, like the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas where my friends came to support me. Then, on March 20, 2022, I felt like the ultimate tourist and runner. I woke up bright and early at 5:00 a.m., hopped a cab at my INNSIDE New York Hotel in Nomad, boarded a bus from Central Park in Manhattan that headed straight to the start line in Brooklyn to begin my run, which would be the first NYC Half Marathon since 2019.

Starting in the hills of Prospect Park, we ran across the Brooklyn Bridge and through Times Square, ending in Central Park. The crowd's energy was infectious and I had never had an emotional experience quite like it.

Lanae Brody
Lanae Brody

Courtesy Lanae Brody PEOPLE Senior Reporter Lanae Brody runs through Times Square during the NYC Half Marathon.

I burst into tears when crossing the finish line as my young son put my special finisher jacket on my back.

I was so inspired that I decided to run with Team for Kids as part of the New York City Marathon in 2022. With a third surgery to clean me up on May 13, 2022, I'm glad to have this 26.2-mile goal in mind.

November 6, 2022: I'm coming for you.