THANKS, “PRE,” YOU ARE STILL AN INSPIRATION


It was crazy, I knew it was, but I needed to do it.  I was depressed, it was raining hard outside, 39 F. (4 C.), but I decided to go for a 3 mile (5 km) run.  I live in Eugene; Track Town, USA, home of the Olympic Trials, NCAA championships, and a runner’s mecca.  I’ve camped in pouring rain many times; I can certainly run in this weather. I MUST run in it today.

Earlier, I got a video link from a friend showing how a former Attorney General in New Jersey used a data-driven approach to reduce crime.  I was depressed, mostly because I was jealous of her data-driven success, something for 3 decades I never could achieve.  Jealousy is one of the seven deadly sins.

I put on sweats, my rain jacket, a neck warmer, hat and hood, and went out.  I wondered if I would see others running, but it didn’t matter.  I was out there, running.  I needed to goAt the outset, I should have walked, but I immediately started running, not fast, but I wasn’t walking.

This video was on TED, and I usually look at links or books people recommend to me.  As a result, I learn a lot. I seldom, however, send links or recommend books to others, despite the fact I do a great deal of reading in both English and German.

I soon reached Alton Baker Park, feet wet, and just a bit cold, but my wool socks would soon warm me up.  This wasn’t bad so far, but it was raining harder.  Let’s see what happens.

The reason I seldom send anybody anything is I have sadly noted  that almost nobody, and I mean that word, nobody, has ever looked at any of my reading recommendations. Seldom has anybody asked for my recommendation, and I doubt those who did ever followed through.  It was discouraging, because as I learned from others, I got the feeling that others felt I have read nothing important. I taught myself to read when I was 3.

I haven’t been able to run at all for 3 months, because I had patellar tendonitis, which I had never had in 50 years of running.  I missed running.  This past week, I started again, first 100 steps at a time, 4 or 5 times.  It went well.  I walked 10 miles a day.  So far, so good, as I headed towards the Willamette River.

I recommended a New Yorker article about the new ecosystem discovered in the crown of California Redwoods, and it was unread. Same with Our Darkening Ocean, a must read in my opinion. The Khan Academy depresses me, because the man is brilliant, but basically does what I am capable of doing, but was unable to do.  I couldn’t even get local schools interested in my many skills, despite extensive efforts.

Within days, I was running 200, 300, 500, and 600 steps at a time.  It felt great.  Today, in the rain, I decided to go for 1000 when I hit the Pre-trail.  Steve Prefontaine died far too young, but I bet he would have been happy to see an old guy running in the rain.  And loving it.

When I was on the Medical Society Board of Directors, one of my detractors always gave me “reading assignments,” which I called them.  When people came to the monthly meeting, that individual was greeted warmly.  I wasn’t, but rather given articles to read, most of which I either knew about or was trying to implement.  I got the sense others felt I didn’t know much, and if I would only read these myriad books and articles, I would become more knowledgable.

I didn’t see another runner, but now my feet were warm, and I was cruising.  Five hundred steps, 600, 800, and 1000.  Wow, that wasn’t bad at all.  Nobody out here, and it is wide open and not dark, just raining. 

I was counting complications in carotid artery surgery (CEA) in my hospital in 1984, and I am interested whether hospitals track the following: CEA complication rate, non-elective readmission within 15 or 30 days, clean case wound infection rate; percentage of pre-operative antibiotics given within the proper time window, and the number of deaths where a significant medical error was causal. I tracked the first four 18 years ago and espoused the last in 2001, believing all are decent indicators of medical quality.  Yes, I know others, too.

The Pre-Trail is long, so I thought I’d do another 1000 steps.  No problem.  No runners, either.  Wow, am I crazy?  No, I am having fun in the rain, like a kid!

For those who are concerned about obesity, do you know the percentage of obese 6th graders in one district in your local school system?  I knew it in Tucson in 2010.  It was easy; the data were obtained, I analyzed them, and the results frightening.  I showed the results to the administrators.  They assured me there would be a meeting with other district superintendents. I never heard another word; the Medical Society’s Executive Director wrote, also hearing nothing.

I’ve always been a kid, curious.  Maybe that’s why I read what people send me,  until I either finish it or find it so poorly written or wrong that I stop.  I will read climate change articles until the first pejorative word.  Then I’m done.  It has never, and I mean never, taken long.  Sometimes, I don’t get past the title.

I am now out of date, but I wonder if medicine has a reporting system for medical errors akin to aviation.  We do not have a decent estimate of deaths with a known margin of error (a necessary requirement for every estimate), and with simple sampling techniques, we could know.  I promulgated this from 2001 until I quit in 2006.  Sadly, I was not an attorney general.

I left the Pre trail, went to MLK Blvd. and headed home.  Wow, this is great.  The people in the cars must think I’m nuts.  I saw no other runners, either.  I might be the craziest guy in Eugene! Or maybe one of the happiest.  What happened to the depression I had?

So, when I see an young, former attorney general of a populous state talk about data-driven crime statistics as if this were something new, I get a bit jealous and depressed.  I was pushing this stuff when she was in high school, and we still aren’t doing it the way we should.

Where did I go wrong?  You didn’t, guy.  Many try; few succeed.  Today, nobody, it appeared, tried to run the Pre-Trail.  You did, and you succeeded.  You are now happy, and many who own more would give a lot to feel the way you do.

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