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Why Runners?

By Dr. Clark Bilbrey PT, DPT, ATC

I’m a physical therapist, athletic trainer, and runner originally from just outside of Nashville, TN.

I clearly remember as a freshman in high school wondering what the numbers meant in the far corner of my math teacher’s whiteboard. I could tell that it was a calendar, but every week there would be a new set of numbers assigned to each day of the previous weekend. Friday - 10. Sunday - 21. He explained these were the miles he ran over the weekend, and some of them were even done on a trail. I was hooked, and by the end of the year I was heading to the local state park near my house most days after school to run the trails.

In the years following, I continued to run more and more. I loved to be outside and to explore, to see what was over the next hill or around the next bend in the trail. I didn’t run with a team or for my school, but I found a community of people who loved to run for the sake of running. Speed didn’t matter to us nearly as much as doing something we loved, that was good for us, and with people who supported you and were all about adventure. This community shaped how I grew up during the most formative years of my life. When the time came to decide on a career, it became clear to me that I wanted to do something that would enable me to be involved in such a united community that encouraged people to get outside and have fun.

I went on some great adventures - running rim-to-rim-to-rim 50 miles across the Grand Canyon and back, crewing at a 500k footrace in Tennessee and in Death Valley for the Badwater 135. I ran a few elimination races, once running 50 miles overnight on a half mile horse track in Kentucky and a 43 mile race on a 4.3 mile trail.

Image: Halfway through a double crossing of the Grand Canyon.

My undergraduate degree was a B.S. in Athletic Training from Union University (Jackson, TN), where I worked with all sorts of collegiate sports, learning to perform on-field emergency medicine as well as designing and providing sport-specific rehab for athletes in sports ranging from cross country to bull riding.

I went on to pursue my doctorate in physical therapy at Ohio University (Athens, OH), where I completed clinical work with both The Ohio State University Sports Medicine and Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine, seeing patients ranging from middle school cross country runners to D1 collegiate track and field athletes.

Image: Presenting research in Washington DC at the 2019 Physical Therapy Combined Sections Meeting during my graduate studies.

During my time at Ohio University, I was able to take advanced coursework in the assessment and treatment of running athletes. Our program featured a running research and gait analysis lab headed by Dr. Robert Wayner. It was through his mentoring, teaching, and my experiences in his lab that I developed my passion and skill for working with runners. We took the latest evidence and clinical experience and put it to practice, particularly in the areas of running gait analysis.

Images: The OHIO Center for Running Performance featured a force plate integrated treadmill and computerized 3D motion capture system.

Running gait video analysis can be adapted to be performed with just an iPad - called 2D analysis, which is the technique I use in my clinical practice. 2D analysis utilizes slow motion video capture to analyze the function and efficiency of the whole body during critical phases of the running cycle. Based on these findings, each runner can be assigned drills and exercises specific to their particular gait style, maximizing their rehabilitation and performance potential.

Image: Performing a 2D gait assessment at EXMI October 2020.

My wife Emma (Kurt) and I moved to Valparaiso in March of 2020, and since June I have had the privilege to work at the new Sports Rehabilitation and Health Enhancement Center for Lakeshore Bone and Joint Institute in Portage. Here I have been able to use what I learned in my studies to develop a running medicine program alongside other talented physical therapists and health care professionals. Because of our unique facility and network of resources, we are able to offer services from the point of injury all the way through to return to sport. We also offer sports performance training for uninjured athletes looking to improve their competitive edge.

Image: The LBJI Sports Performance and Health Enhancement Center in Portage, IN.

I’m most excited to continue to become a part of the running community in Valparaiso. Extra Mile Fitness Co. does a fantastic job of supporting local running athletes, and they truly embody the sort of positive and encouraging “all are welcome” mentality that I think running is all about. If I can play a small part in this community of helping runners keep running and accomplish their goals, then I can truly say that I’m doing what I was called to do.


Twitter: @ClarkB_DPT

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