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CARA Comeback Story Presented By NovaCare: Lena Park

CARA is excited to present the first of our CARA Comeback Stories, presented by NovaCare. These stories will feature runners who have accomplished unique personal achievements in their running after overcoming a setback or injury.

Lena Park is a long-time CARA Group Leader, as well as a frequent racer and marathoner. After fracturing her foot during the Big Sur Relay in 2019, Lena enlisted the help of NovaCare. Working closely with her physical therapist Beth Williamson, she was able to overcome this injury and complete not one, but two fall marathons! Read more about Lena's journey below.




What is your personal connection to CARA?

I have been a part of CARA summer marathon training since 2008. I have made many close friends in all those years, and my running family continues to grow the longer I’ve been a part of CARA. A friend recommended I join if I wanted to run a marathon, and that was probably one of the best recommendations a friend could give me.

You recently overcame a foot injury in 2019. Can you tell us more about working with NovaCare to overcome this injury?

I had fractured my foot during the Big Sur Relay back in April 2019. After being in a boot for at least a month, I scheduled with NovaCare to rehab my foot and try to make a plan for my return to running. I had originally registered for the Chicago Marathon and Marine Corps Marathon and had every intention to still make that happen. I was in physical therapy from about the end of June until right after I finished MCM. It was a very short and condensed training schedule, but my physical therapist Beth was an integral part of helping my fall plans become a reality.

What kept you motivated during this time?

I was determined to make it to two starting lines that fall and needed to do whatever was necessary to make it there. I’m sure my physical therapist thought I was nuts when I first told her my plan.

"She is a perfect example of how return to run can work when you are diligent and dedicated to your rehab and your desire to run. She is an excellent example of how someone should treat an injury and a great leader for her runners." - Beth Williamson, DPT

Do you have any advice for runners who may be struggling with an injury?

Never give up. Even though an injury may set you back, it makes the comeback all the much sweeter. When I couldn’t run for two months, I was forced to take up some other activities to keep myself in shape. I purchased a bike (hadn’t ridden one in 17 years) and got talked into Orangetheory. Sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation even if it’s not ideal. In the end, my Chicago Marathon of 2019 may not have been my fastest time, but it was sure my happiest running moment since I didn’t know if I would even make it to that finish line.




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The Chicago Area Runners Association, CARA, is a non-profit organization committed to serving and advocating for the local running community. We are Chicagoland’s running club, providing accessible opportunities for all runners to train, race, learn, be social and volunteer. 

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