It’s never been easy being Shawn Miller.
For the better part of the last two decades, the 38-year-old accountant runs on the order of 90 miles per week on the dark and wet roads in the Mendenhall Valley. For all the honor and praise that comes with winning races — something he’s done a lot of over the past 15 years — the road to top running form hasn’t come without its costs. In the last decade, Juneau’s preeminent marathoner has dealt with a slew of injuries, and Miller said he’s spent about 4,000 hours in physical therapy.
First came a torn hamstring in 2009 that took three years to fully get over. A year later came something more uncommon, the tearing of his hip labral, a ring of cartilage connected to the hip joint. This led Miller to undergo hip surgery that put him out for close to a year. A hip stress fracture was next before what Miller described as a “pelvic rotation imbalance.”
Miller saw his physical therapist, who massaged his hip muscles in hopes of rooting out scarred muscle tissue. Miller said it caused “stretching sensations” on his back but didn’t think much of it until he went out for his next run.
“When I went out for a run the next day, all of a sudden, the left side of my back just collapsed in on itself and I felt like I was almost crippled and the pain was excruciating,” Miller said in an interview on Thursday. “It took about three weeks of intense physical therapy after that to restore normal walking and functions and being able to do daily living activities. However, whatever happened with that session and that three weeks of rehab has left it so that I no longer have a normal pronation with my foot strike.”
Miller said he doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon, even though he experiences pain in his hip and back.
“It does sap a little bit of the enjoyment,” he said. “But with all the issues that I’ve had and to be able to still participate in the sport, is still immensely satisfying. So even though it’s still an issue and I’m going to continue trying to resolve it, it’s not going to hold me back from participating in the sport that I enjoy very much.”
Miller has run in 15 marathons across six states and one province since 2002, including seven in Juneau. Miller’s personal record in the marathon is 2 hours, 28 minutes, 47 seconds, which he set in 2006 in Victoria, British Columbia.
“I was always active while growing up but I think some combination of the experiences between cross country and track field here at high school at JDHS really enhanced a passion for the sport,” Miller said. “That passion has only continued since that time. I would credit that to coaches, friends and family, and then the community being as supportive as it is for running and athletic events in general.”
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.