Running 2020: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking Back

I began running as a kid when I joined the 8th-grade track team and ran the 800-meter race, almost always coming in dead last. But my dedication had me up at six o’clock every morning to walk to school for early practice. I didn’t know it then, but I was building an athletic life.

My adult running career began when my sister, Laura, ran a marathon and told me I could do one, too. So in 2003, when I was 37 years old, I signed up for the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon on May 4, 2004, and trained all winter. Because the basic training plan had apparently worked for thousands of people before me, I adopted it fully. I didn’t believe my sister when she advised that as soon as I crossed the finish, I would be planning the next one. But sure enough, after my 5-hour-35-minute-26.2 mile run, I said to her, “Let’s do the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Alaska next year!” Another winter of training. Another back of the pack race — 5 hours 45 minutes. By the third year, third marathon, and discovering track workouts, I hit 4 hours 57 minutes at the 2006 God’s Country Marathon in Pennsylvania. I also took an age group award as well as a personal record (PR). I’ll share a secret — “God’s Country Marathon” is code for “really darn hilly.”

Amelia's daughter Cady joins her at the finish of the Ithaca YMCA triathalon

Over the total of six years of my adult running career, I earned a few more age-group awards, mostly local, and mostly to my surprise. In 2008, when I headed out one fall day for a half-marathon, my daughter, Cady, came up to the car and said in that most adorable, optimistic voice reserved for 6-year-olds, “Mommy, go run really FAST and WIN your race!”

I thought, ’Indeed, sweetheart. Indeed.’

But I replied, to give her an honest picture, “Oh, honey, I don’t win these races, but I’ll sure try my best and have a great run!”

Her young, earnest eyes seemed to ask, “Why would you enter a race if you already know you won’t win?” or perhaps it was, “Then why don’t you stay home with me all day and cuddle on the couch?” And I was off. When I came back that afternoon with a trophy (age group award, again), and a personal record, that little girl was beside herself with joy!

I carefully explained, without downplaying the PR, that third in my group and the trophy were not exactly evidence of world-class running. Still, that small trophy is my most cherished piece of plastic. That PR was October 2008. Twenty months later, in June 2009, I survived a debilitating stroke. I was only 42 and feeling on top of the world, training for a half-Ironman triathlon. I simply got out of a lake swim one morning and broke in half.

Doctors called it “spontaneous dissection of the carotid,” which I took to mean “no good reason, it was just your turn in this fickle universe.” At first I asked, “Why me?” but mostly I asked, “When?”

  • When will I get ALL better?
  • When will I go running again?
  • When will I move or feel my left arm or leg, at all?
  • When will I be allowed out of this hospital and go take a pee by myself?

There were no answers and certainly no guarantees. Becoming completely paralyzed down my left side and suffering cognitive losses, it took every bit of moxie I owned to learn to walk again; and after four years of trying, I got my 5K time down to 2 hours. I also re-learned how to ride a bike. By 2014, five years after the stroke, I had built enough stamina to enter a 10K. Limp-walking the whole way, I finished in 3 hours 35 minutes. I came in under 3 hours in my next two races. My new perspective? Dead last is better than actually dead.

Looking forward

After so many years of consistent exercise-walking and treadmill time, arduous PT, and continuously digging up new wells of patience and resolve, I can hit a 24-minute mile, a 77-minute 5K and have entered several triathlons. That 6-year-old daughter has picked up no small amount of my determination and has become a teenager who still promises that she will run with me when I get rid of the limp and finally am able to run. Maybe that will be in 2020. I’m looking forward to it!

In 2014, Cady had a 7th-grade essay about a life-changing event. She wrote about my stroke:

“She has been fighting to recover ever since. But my mom was strong and determined, and I am glad to say that she is a fighter. I’ve learned that over years, anything can be achieved if you are determined enough. Look at my mother: She had a stroke, and after only five years of recovery, she did the Cayuga Lake Triathlon. This event has forever changed my perspective on the world.”

Indeed, sweetheart. Indeed.

Amelia gets back into her "normal" training groove by swimming at Keezar Lake in Maine

Amelia Habicht lives in Ithaca, New York, and is available for paid speaking engagements at events, races, or other gatherings, and for freelance writing work. Contact her for a full resume and details.







See Amelia’s TEDxIthacaCollege talk courtesy of

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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

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Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

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Helping Others Understand

Stroke affects people differently and many of the effects of stroke can be complicated. Helping friends and family understand how a stroke is affecting a survivor can help everyone involved.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!