How Running Changed Me – Eddie Purtell – runnersworld.com

How Running Changed Me – Eddie Purtell  runnersworld.com

Courtesy Eddie Purtell

Name: Eddie Purtell
Age: 28
Hometown: Denver, Colorado (originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Time Running: 11 years
Reason for Running: I run because it’s a great form of exercise. I love that you can run anywhere and have incredible views. I also run to raise money to find a cure for neurofibromatosis (NF), which is a genetic disorder I’ve had since birth.


My neurofibromatosis (NF) journey began at birth. I was born with a tumor behind my left eye, and by the time I was 4 months old, I was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1).

NF is a group of genetic disorders that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. Throughout my childhood, I had multiple surgeries and MRIs to monitor tumor growth. When I was 8, I had a 16-hour surgery performed by three surgeons, who attempted to debulk the tumor in my head. This resulted in 52 stitches over the top of my head. After that surgery, my doctors continued to monitor tumor growth, resulting in additional surgeries. In all, I’ve had over 20 procedures throughout my life. Right now, I do not have any procedures planned for the future. I am in great health.

My running “career” began in May 2011. I was playing soccer on my high school’s varsity team, and I wanted to run more to be in better shape for soccer season. I felt great when I first started running. I was already a decent runner having played soccer most of my life. Over the years, I have definitely improved my pace and distance.

One day in the summer of 2011, I ran a little further than usual. When I got home, I explained to my dad the route I took and he said to me, “Eddie, that’s probably six and a half miles!”

My dad had previously run a half marathon for NF and was doing another in about a month. I figured that if I can run six and a half miles (which is about half of the distance for a half marathon), how hard could it be to go twice as far?

After that first race, I have been hooked on racing. I have done at least one half marathon every year since (outside of 2013 when I had reconstructive jaw surgery), as well as the Chicago Marathon in 2017.

When I first started running, I didn’t really use any training apps or plans. I sometimes used MapMyRun to create routes and see how far I was running. Outside of that, I was doing three runs during the week, each about three to five miles, and did a longer run on the weekend, anywhere from six to 12 miles. I started raising money to find a cure for NF through the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF), and knowing that I am making an impact is what motivates me. (To date, I’ve raised over $130,000 for NF.)

Currently, I am getting back into longer runs now that ski season is over (another passion of mine). For the future, I am planning on doing a half marathon in the fall and maybe a trail half marathon this summer. I currently do two to three miles four times during the week, and sometimes a four- to five-mile run on the weekend.

Running has absolutely changed my life. It is a great and easy way to stay in good shape. Running makes me feel great, and it’s a great way to clear my mind and release stress. If I had not gotten into running, I may have never started raising money for CTF and become the 2022 NF National Ambassador. Even though myself and many others are born with NF (or are later diagnosed with it), we are still capable of running half marathons and marathons.


These three tips have made my running journey a success:

1. Find good shoes

Every runner is different and will have different preferences. So I recommend going to a running store to find a shoe you like. The right shoe can make all the difference. Having the right shoes has helped me avoid injuries and has helped me improve my pace.

2. Make a great playlist

I love music, and it definitely helps to have a great playlist to jam to on longer runs. Playlists have helped me keep high energy on longer runs and can help give me a little kick.

3. Get a fitness watch and route planner

I would also recommend having some type of fitness watch such as a Garmin, Fitbit, or Apple Watch. That way you can track your runs and see how you are doing, and to track how you are improving. Lastly, I would recommend that you find some good (and fun) routes around you.


: I recently got these shoes and I absolutely love them. I love the fit and I enjoy that they are feet-shaped, which allows for more room in the toe box.

: I love Garmin watches because they are great for tracking any activity and the additional data it tracks on your workouts. I also love the battery life of Garmin, which is very important for fitness watches.

: I love the AirPods Pro. I think they are the best headphones I have used for working out or running. In the past, I had trouble with headphones staying in my ears while running. I have never had any trouble with the AirPods staying in place.


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Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania. 

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