Former collegiate runner going from retirement to redemption

Former collegiate runner going from retirement to redemption

Former collegiate runner going from retirement to redemption

A major injury can leave a runner scarred, and end their careers instantly. For one soon-to-be Grandma’s Marathon runner, he’s not letting his injury define him.

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“I didn’t like running anymore. Bad memories. Now it’s kind of like a whole new chapter of running for me doing this whole distance thing,” shared Alex Vollen.

Alex Vollen, a 2017 Bemidji High School graduate, reached the peak of his running career just a few years ago. In high school, he was part of the state championship 4×800 relay team in 2017. He was all-state in track, a three-time state participant, part of school-record holding 4×200 and 4×400 relay teams, and track team MVP.

Vollen, now living in Duluth, went on to Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he finished eighth in the 600 at NSIC indoor championships. But after his freshman year, it all came crumbling down.

Vollen had a herniated disk in his back, which caused ciatica in his leg and a microdisectimy was needed to relieve his back pain. Six months after surgery, Vollen hung up his spikes and was done with collegiate running forever.

“I had the surgery and then I couldn’t lift more than five pounds for about a month. Then, I had to wrap up school and everything. The first two weeks I had it, I was on heavy painkillers. Couldn’t really do anything, pretty out of it. Then I had to wait like a month and then I started doing some physical therapy slowly but surely.”

After Vollen had denounced running from his life as a whole, he still felt the need to get back out and do the thing he loved most.

“My whole life, the best friends I have are for the most part runners. So they slowly got me back into it again and just love it just as much as I used to as a little kid.”

The little kid in Vollen has come out, running 20, even 50 miles in preparation for Grandma’s Marathon. But the end goal is the Boston marathon.

“I just want to be able to say I qualified for Boston. It’s a huge physical task, obviously, to do that. It’s just a pride thing kind of, and then just for my injury sake too, I’ve being able to come back and say that I was able to qualify for Boston after getting back surgery as a 21 year old. So that’s what Boston means to me is to just kind of prove to myself, like I can physically still be a good runner.”

But first, reaching the finish line at Grandma’s one way or another.

“I could be doing great 18 miles in and I could absolutely blow up and be running not fast at all and walking it in. So I totally respect what this race is. It’s not a joke.”