Blind athlete finds reassurance to keep running after visit to VCU RUN LAB

Charlie Plaskon runs tests at the VCU RUN LAB.

Charlie Plaskon runs tests at the VCU RUN LAB.

Charlie Plaskon has never acted his age and at 72 years old he has no plans to start. The legally blind, retired teacher began running at the age of 55 and hasn’t looked back, competing in more than 45 marathons and triathlons, including the grueling Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii in 2007.

Nothing could slow Plaskon down until he suffered a back injury in 2015 that put his running career on hold. He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the vertebral canal that compresses the spinal nerves and can cause leg pain and difficulty walking. After a successful laminectomy, or decompression surgery, followed by a rigorous rehabilitation with a physical therapist, he was ready to start running, swimming and biking again.

Plaskon enlisted the help of D.S. Blaise Williams III, Ph.D., director of the VCU RUN LAB, with the goal of competing again. Williams specializes in 3-D biomechanics as it relates to injury and recovery from running and landing injuries. The VCU RUN LAB is a collaboration involving the Department of Physical Therapy in the School of Allied Health Professions and the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

The main reason for Plaskon’s visit to the VCU RUN LAB, a national leader in running analysis, was to see if it was possible for him to continue running long distances. He would like to compete in full marathons while posting times under five hours, as he had before his injury. His ultimate goal is to compete in a full Ironman competition once again.

“I don’t like doing half-marathons because half means I didn’t do the other half,” Plaskon said. “That’s why I’m here. I want to see what the next level is. Can I compete like I used to? I want to find out exactly what’s left after 72 years.”

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