The cancellation of the Pittsburgh Marathon didn’t stop ultra-runner Jeff Gleason any more than a knee replacement did.
Jeff Gleason isn’t one to accept reasons that he can’t run. That includes having his knee replaced three years ago, and it includes having his race calendar cancelled this spring. Instead of giving up, he a couple of friends got up at 1:00 this morning, and, keeping six feet apart, ran a marathon in the dark in and around Pittsburgh’s North Park.
A runner since college, the now 62-year-old started doing ultras soon after the turn of the century and has now completed over 60 of them, including four Badwaters, the 135 mile crossing of the Mojave Desert from Death Valley to Mount Whitney. It was during the 2016 Badwater, however, that Gleason’s right knee, that had been progressively getting worse, finally caused him to stop.
“At 60 miles, I said, ‘That’s it,’” Gleason recalls. “I had to admit that I had a serious problem, my knee was bone-on-bone, with no cartilage.” After doing research, Gleason heard about Dr. Richard Berger, an orthopedic surgeon at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, who performs joint replacement without cutting muscles, ligaments or tendons.
Berger’s procedure appealed to Gleason for two reasons, he says: “First, recovery was very quick, compared to traditional surgery, and second, after the replacement, you’re able to do anything, because if the artificial knee wears out, it is much easier to replace than with traditional surgery.”