ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb at Bird Ridge will attract 250 mountain runners this Sunday, and in that crowd will be Tom Ritchie, a year after having a total hip replacement.
“Life is good, pain free,” said Ritchie at Flattop, training for the upcoming race.
Ritchie said he initially shrugged off the idea of getting a hip replacement because it would slow him down.
Soon the pain would become too much.
“It just got to the point where I couldn’t put my socks on in the morning,” said Ritchie.
The 45-year-old realized the surgery was inevitable.
“I was nervous at first,” said Ritchie. “You hear a lot of doctors say you shouldn’t run again.”
It would take him eight to nine months before he could start running again, but it felt like a lifetime for Ritchie.
“Last year I was on the sidelines recovering, I went to all the races, volunteered at a couple of ‘em, and it was different, it was hard,” said Ritchie.
Helping Ritchie on the road to recovery was close friend and coach of the Alaska Endurance Project, Jerry Ross.
“I know he was frustrated at like 3 months, he was expecting what he was like before, and it wasn’t the case at all,” said Ross.
Both Ross and Ritchie are used to competing at high level, winning a masters team title at the Boston Marathon in 2017.
Ritchie would soon find his stride through physical therapy, rehab and mixing up his workouts.
“I don’t know anybody who’s got a total hip replacement, that’s out running to as fast as Tom is,” said Ross. "He keeps getting faster."
Bird Ridge will serve as Ritchie’s big first test of the summer covering three miles and 3,400 vertical feet on a new hip.
“I’m back, and it definitely feels good to be back in the mountains, to be racing again,” said Ritchie.
He hopes to finish in 45 minutes, and encourages anyone who’s hesitant about a hip replacement to get it done.
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