Amputee: 'I will for sure run through the finish line'

2014-04-09T00:00:00Z 2014-04-09T17:17:05Z Amputee: 'I will for sure run through the finish line'By CINDY UKEN cuken@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

On May 10, Tanya Allestad plans to run — not walk — across the finish line of the 33rd Annual Montana Women’s Run alongside nearly 10,000 other participants.

“It’s an amazing thing to be in this sea of women,” said Allestad, 40, of Columbus. “There is just this terrific spirit.”

Like so many other participants, Allestad is making preparations for race day.

But unlike so many who participate in the popular Getting Started Clinics, Allestad is taking her own unique approach.

Allestad’s preparations include getting fitted for a prosthetic running leg so she can literally run the 2-mile course. Her left leg is amputated below the knee.

The prosthetic is on order and she will need to have physical therapy to help her transition from her “every day” leg to a “running leg.” She is hoping to have mastered it by race day.

“I’m hoping to run the entire race this year,” she said. “If not, I’ll at least do a little jogging. I will for sure run through the finish line, though.”

Jay Murray of Treasure State Orthotic and Prosthetic has worked with Allestad since the beginning to fit her with prosthetic legs that fit her needs, whether it is her “every day” leg or her “girl” leg, which makes it possible for her to wear heels. Murray’s goal has always been to get Allestad back to doing what she was doing before the amputation.

And she is.

“It is so important to show people that you can overcome anything,” Allestad said. “Sometimes you have to take a leap that’s frightening in order to move forward. And moving forward is a choice.”

Allestad knows all about choice.

After spending two years navigating her world on crutches and driving a block to the neighborhood park to play with her niece and nephew, she had had enough.

On June 13, 2012, exhausted from five years of enduring debilitating pain and getting no relief from four foot surgeries, Allestad enlisted the help of an orthopedic surgeon to amputate her left leg below the knee.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I knew there had to be something more.”

Her problem started in April 2007 when she tripped ascending a flight of stairs on laundry day. At first blush, it appeared to be a sprain, but the pain intensified and her foot began to deform. Eventually, she learned that she had torn ligaments in her foot and dislocated three bones.

Her condition even has a name: Lisfranc injury.

Lisfranc, or midfoot, injuries result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn. The severity of the injury can vary from simple to complex, involving many joints and bones in the midfoot.

A Lisfranc injury is often mistaken for a simple sprain, especially if the injury is a result of a straightforward twist and fall. However, injury to the Lisfranc joint is not a simple sprain that should be “walked off.” It is a severe injury that may take many months to heal and may require surgery to treat.

Her toes had died.

“Every step hurt,” Allestad said.

Life as she knew it — the backpacking, hiking, nature photography and snow-machining in Alaska’s backcountry — was over.

Amputation gave it back to her.

“I’ve been able to do things I never thought I would do again,” she said. “My world is so much better with amputation.”

Allestad wants to be to the Montana Women’s Run what Amy Purdy, who won a bronze medal in snowboardcross at the 2014 Paralympics, is to this season’s “Dancing With the Stars” — an inspiration. Both of Purdy’s legs are amputated below the knee.

“We all have injuries, whether they’re apparent or not,” Allestad said. “Everybody has something to run for. This just happens to be mine.”

Those participating in this year’s Montana Women’s Run or simply observing can watch for Allestad. She will be the one in the running shorts showing off her new running leg.

“I’m not shy about that,” she said smiling.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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