By Bill Benner, Sports Journalist
As a career wordsmith, I’m rarely challenged to find, well, words.
But in speaking with Bev Watt, I was momentarily wordless to describe this woman’s achievement.
Make that achievements, plural.
So let’s start with remarkable. No, that’s not quite there.
Exceptional? On the right track.
How about extraordinary? Yeah, that’s it. Extraordinary. No, make it EXTRAordinary! (Exclamation point intended).
You see, with the help of staff at Forte Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, Bev Watts overcame a hip injury and ran a marathon last summer.
A 26.2-mile marathon.
So what’s the big deal, you might think. Lots of people overcome injuries to run marathons.
So here’s the big deal.
Bev Watt is 84 years old.
As I said, EXTRAordinary!
But making it even more so is the aforementioned hip injury, suffered when she fell from her bicycle just five weeks before she was scheduled to run in the appropriately named Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn.
“After my fall, I didn’t think much of it,” says Bev, an avid runner for more than 40 years. “But over the next few days, I could barely walk, let alone run. The pain was too much.”
She thought of a long-ago treatment from Dr. Arthur Rettig, “who I loved,” she said. So, she got in her car on the northeast side of Indianapolis and decided to seek him out directly. Only when she arrived at the Pennsylvania Parkway location, she discovered that Methodist Sports Medicine had changed its name and location, and Dr. Rettig had retired.
Bev learned of the new name, Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, and its location and drove there, but filled with doubts. No one knows me at Forté, she thought, and what if I can’t get an appointment quickly?
And, even if she did get in, what if she was told her attempts to rehab and then compete in a marathon at 84 years old were folly.
And instead of asking Bev why she would even think of such an attempt, both Dr. Negaard and LeBeau said, why not?
“Oh, Dr. Negaard was the most optimistic doctor I’ve ever met!” exclaimed Bev, a retired pharmacist at Fort Benjamin Harrison. “He said, ‘I’ll get you there.’
“And Jen was just wonderful. I’ve never had so much physical therapy. They were both so positive.”
Thus, slowly but quickly given the time frame, Bev recovered. And three-and-a-half weeks later, she was on the starting line in Duluth.
And 26.2 miles later, she crossed the finish line.
“My three teammates from Indianapolis were there and everybody was cheering,” said Bev who, not surprisingly, won her age class. “I got an award plaque in the shape of Minnesota.”
As she was running, she contemplated quitting several times. But every time she did, she thought back to Dr. Negaard and LeBeau.
“They all said you can do it,” Bev recalled. “As I was running, I told myself I can’t stop. I can’t let them down. Half the battle was their encouragement.”
Thus, the capstone to an amazing running career that has included competing in marathons in the U.S. and Europe, in particular Berlin, where she posted her personal best time of 4 hours, 30 minutes. Her infatuation with running began years ago, when she competed with a Fort Harrison team in the Indiana Sports Corp’s annual Corporate Challenge. That was a miler. In short time, she moved up to 10ks and half marathons, then to the 26.2 milers.
Bev gives part of the credit to genetics. “At age 86, my mother could outwalk me,” says Bev.
And was the Grandma Marathon her last? Well never say never. You put one foot in front of another and then, before you know it, it’s 26.2 miles later.
“I’m still running and would like to do another when I’m 85,” says Bev. “I just want to be an inspiration to other women coming up in age.”
An inspiration to be sure.
A remarkable, exceptional inspiration?
No, an EXTRAordinary inspiration. That’s just the right word.
And credit Forté’s Negaard and LeBeau for an extraordinary assist.