Injury won't slow Oak Park iron man

Running Columnist

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Bob Hakes, 70, one of the founding members of the Oak Park Runners Club, is still an active guy. He's in better shape than most men half his age?#34;still running and biking regularly. Recently he returned from a 450-mile bike tour in Oregon with former Oak Park resident and runners club member, Bud Ames, so he's obviously an experienced cyclist. Then he had the misfortune to get badly injured in a bike accident right here in Oak Park, only a few blocks from home.

I've been riding my bike to work in Downtown Chicago about two or three times a week. It's been a regular thing for a few friends in the runners club who also cycle (and with flexible schedules) to ride in with me. They then return to Oak Park, thereby getting in an early morning 20 miler. On the morning of August 5th I met up with Hakes and Cliff Carlson, who was training for an upcoming triathlon, and we made the usual ride into the city. Later, I was at my desk when Cliff phoned, telling me that Bob had hit the curb on Ridgeland Avenue, and was in the emergency room at West Sub with serious injuries.

It was a freak accident. Returning to Oak Park, they were headed for breakfast. Bob checked his rear view mirror to see where Cliff was, taking his eyes off the road for an instant. When he looked up, he had drifted toward the curb?#34;too late to react. He went over the handlebars landing hard on the curb, breaking the top portion of his pelvis at the left hip, cracking several ribs and separating his shoulder. A two-week stay in the hospital included shoulder surgery plus physical therapy. And he had the worst bruises I've ever seen. During the hospital stay his room saw a steady parade of Runners Club friends, cycling buddies and church friends. On one of my visits, he was sitting in the physical therapy room impatiently waiting for the therapist, while aggressively flexing his legs and knees.

The irony in this is that Bob has been the iron man during all the years I've known him. Most runners have suffered occasional injuries, usually the overuse type, from miles of running. Not Bob?#34;he's been bulletproof. But not this time. Although a bike accident isn't an overuse injury, he'll be out of action for months. And I don't envy his wife, Lucy, who is faithfully caring for him through the frustrations of being semi-inactive for awhile. She said that for a couple of days prior to Bob's release from the hospital she was "Bob-proofing" their condo, moving throw rugs, furniture and other possible tripping hazards. But since getting home he's been climbing stairs, walking and exercising.

I stopped by a few days after his release from the hospital. He was using a cane and reported that he had walked to get a newspaper. He also said that he had a list of daily exercises to perform. One of the shoulder exercises called for 20 repetitions. "I did 40," he noted, while Lucy rolled her eyes, speculating maybe that was why it was a little sore.

One significant advantage of being fit is that even if you get injured, you usually recover faster. My visit with Bob in the physical therapy room was a pretty vivid example. It was only about 10 days after the accident, and he still couldn't get around without a walker, but he was actively working and energetic, even though in some pain. Meanwhile others in the therapy room with far less ailments were feebly struggling to do some of the most basic tasks. In only two weeks, Bob had made amazing progress. And again, he's 70 years old.

His doctor figured he'd be out of action for maybe six months. I'm guessing three or four.

Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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