Running has been a significant part of Jon Macnider's life.
A three-day layoff from running could seem to be an eternity for someone like Macnider. So, one can imagine the distressing thoughts Macnider had in the fall of 2010 about thoughts of a longer or even permanent layoff from something which has provided him with so much joy.
Macnider was out for a practice run with his girls cross country team as he closed in on the finish line of his illustrious coaching career at Schaumburg High School. A twinge in his back turned into a shooting pain from a spinal fracture which suddenly had him facing the potential of a premature end to his coaching career as well as running.
That would almost be more painful than the injury itself.
"That's why it was killing me," Macnider said of the fracture caused by osteoporosis. "I thought, 'You're making me retire and then I can't run?'"
Macnider couldn't run -- but only for three days. Thanks to a balloon kyphoplasty performed by Dr. Tom McNally, an orthopedic surgeon from Bartlett, Macnider is not only still running but preparing for races such as the 8K Shamrock Shuffle and a marathon.
The 58-year-old Macnider would be the first to admit he isn't as good as new. But he's a lot better than he could have been.
"I used to have to slow down for them," Macnider joked of his oldest sons Ian and Andrew. "Now they have to slow down for me."
Slowing down or stopping wasn't part of the plan for Macnider even as retirement loomed. The back injury initially didn't keep him off his feet, since Macnider had dealt with the normal aches and pains runners experience, including three knee surgeries.
So, he kept running for almost two weeks when his nephew Kirk, who coaches at Hoffman Estates, suggested a visit to his chiropractor. That led to an MRI, which produced the shocking diagnosis of osteoporosis and a trip to see McNally.
"It's rare to see it in an athlete," McNally said of a condition which usually afflicts older women. "Athletes tend to have stronger bones than sedentary people."
Because of that, there were concerns Jon Macnider might be suffering from something even worse, but tests determined he did not have cancer. McNally then told Macnider he was a good candidate for the balloon kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive procedure that corrects vertebral deformity and stabilizes spinal fracture.
McNally has performed the procedure since 1997, where orthopedic balloons are inflated inside the fractured bone and inflated to lift and return it to the proper position. The newly created cavity is filled with thick bone cement to stabilize the fracture.
Macnider went in on a Friday to have the procedure performed. The following Monday he was out running a few laps around the lake near the police station just east of Schaumburg High School.
"He was able to run, so I let him run," McNally said.
"The doctor said if it works, you're good to go and resume normal activity," Macnider said. "He knew at that time I was running about 50 miles a week. I gave him a look, 'You're sure?' He said, 'If it works, it works.'"
Macnider's first goal was to get back so he could warm up and cool down with his team at the state cross country meet in Peoria. Mission accomplished as the Saxons gave Macnider a third state title as a retirement gift.
The other gift was the chance to run again, even though he had to dial back his competitive nature a bit. Now he runs about 35 miles a week instead of 50 to 75 and he promised his wife Mary he would only run once a day.
If it's rainy, snowy or too cold, Macnider exercises caution by running inside on a treadmill. He also does yoga to help his balance and flexibility and takes supplements for his osteoporosis.
Macnider was happy with the 5:49 mile he ran in January at the North Central College alumni meet. He is going to race in the Shamrock Shuffle with Janeth Salazar, who medaled on the Saxons' first title team in 1982, and will go out to watch Ian run the Boston Marathon in April.
Macnider also has plans for runs with Andrew and his youngest son Nathan. The best part is it's all possible thanks to McNally and the balloon kyphoplasty.
"I take each run and try to remember while I'm doing it, it could be my last run, so enjoy it," Macnider said. "I also try not to kill myself so I have another run. My goal is if I make it to 90, I'd like to be running when I'm 90."