CLIFTON PARK — The body is a mystery.
You know your own intimately, the good stuff and the bad.
I’ll step out of bed in the morning and feel a familiar creak in the side of my left foot, the puzzle pieces left behind by dozens of ankle sprains not quite aligning properly, and the only conclusion is “There will be no running today. Maybe tomorrow.”
Or maybe not.
You never know.
Pat Glover has been a pillar of the running community for decades, a marathoner, a past champion of the Stockade-athon 15k who has missed the race only a few times since it began in 1976 and who has run the Troy Turkey Trot close to 50 times.
In 2001, he was part of an Adirondack Association group that won the USA Track & Field national masters team championship for the 8k. He's been in the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club Hall of Fame since 1999.
Besides his own achievements, Pat has been a tireless race director and volunteer at a variety of events. When I interviewed him for a Stockade-athon-related story in 2006, we talked on the sidelines while his son, Jamie, helped Shenendehowa win the Section II Class AA championship.
The 71-year-old has put countless miles on his legs.
If you’re a runner, your legs are your best friends. You know everything about them; you’re in constant contact. You get in a fight every once in awhile, but that’s natural.
Pat woke up in a hospital bed this spring, and his right leg was gone. Left behind are question marks, the biggest of which is “What happened to me?”
If ever there was an illustration of how mysterious the human body can be, even in 2017, with all the medical advances under the sun, it’s the plight of Pat Glover, a man who has devoted his life to staying fit, doing all the right things and maintaining an intimate partnership with the pieces that make him go.
His legs. His feet. His lungs. Besides running, he swims and cycles.
Yet, somehow, his leg is gone, amputated this spring because of a series of ailments of unknown origin that likely will haunt him for the rest of his life. If you're lacing up your running shoes for Sunday's 42nd annual MVP Stockade-athon, please feel free to take a moment to appreciate what that means.
"I wouldn’t call it ‘Why me?’ I don’t have a lot of that," Pat said in late September during a Beer Mile fundraiser at Schmaltz Brewery to help him pay for a state-of-the-art prosthetic running blade. "I wonder, on an individual basis, what happened to me? Not ‘Why me?’ but ‘What happened to me?’"
Part of that question is directed at the simple and natural desire to solve the mystery. But he also wants to be to help provide advice to others who might face a similar life-threatening situation. Who knows, it could happen to him again, he said.
In Pat's case, the abdominal pain was severe enough to warrant a trip to Ellis Urgent Care. After he began to feel worse later at home, having taken some medication, he was in an ambulance to Albany Medical Center, where it was determined that he was suffering from internal bleeding.
By then, his right leg had begun to hurt, too, due to blood clots.
"They don’t know whether the blood clots were related to the internal bleeding," Pat said. "They can’t tell me that. Even today. By then my right leg had lost circulation for several hours. They couldn’t get a pulse. I mean, I could see it. My foot was white.
"They took care of the blood clots, had to open up both sides of my leg to relieve some of the pressure and tried to save the leg for about three weeks and finally said, 'We can’t save the leg. If you want to live, we can take the leg. We can’t save the leg, but we can save your life.' I said, 'Do what you gotta do.'
"So they took the leg."
That was April 30, below the knee, and five days later the surgeons took more, above the knee.
"And ever since then I've been recouping," Pat said. "So I don’t know what caused it. I don’t know where it came from. I mean, Mike, to be honest with you, I thought I was doing most of the right things. I was running, I was biking, I was swimming. And all of a sudden ..."
Pat, who also has been working through this ordeal while his wife Nancy has been going through a series of treatments for leukemia, is swimming again and hand-biking. He's walking and driving, with a prosthesis built for those activities. But not running.
That will come later.
At the Beer Mile, there were three amputee men from the Blade Runners of America running with the special flexible carbon-fiber blades.
Pat is still re-learning how to walk, but sees himself someday in their shoes, so to speak.
"I’ve got to walk before I can run, and it certainly is not as easy as I anticipated," he said. "But, down the road, I watched these guys today, and they can do it. I should be able to do it. There’s no reason in my mind why I can’t. So that’s what I want to do, I want to get back to running again."
Pat said it was disheartening to wake up in that hospital in April and look down the bed.
On the other hand, the excruciating pain was gone.
A parade of well-wishers came by at the Shmaltz Beer Mile and clinked beer glasses with Pat as he leaned on his crutches without his walking prosthesis. Night fell, and I absent-mindedly rubbed a mosquito off the back of my right leg with my left foot (useful for at least one thing, anyway). The beer was fresh, the air was cool, and in the darkness, I had to remind myself that the man standing next to me was missing a limb.
You fight your legs, your confounding legs. This spring, one of Pat's was gone.
The fight was not.