From no hope in New York to success in San Francisco
On Sunday July 31, Helena Dona crossed the finish line at the San Francisco half marathon. She’d been training for weeks, was in good shape, and completed the infamously hilly course in just two minutes over her goal time.
There’s nothing unique about this story other than that, just a few months ago, Helena wasn’t even able to walk across the road without excruciating pain, and spent 17 weeks recovering from injury. Seventeen weeks without running.
'I took up running in early 2013,' says Helena. 'I had gained weight and decided to do something about it. As I was living in New York I decided to enter the lottery for the marathon and, with 500 days to train, I won a spot. I thought this would be enough time to get in shape.'
For every single one of those 500 days, Helena showed up to make her dream of completing the New York marathon a reality. 'I made a lot of sacrifices, lost weight, woke early,' she recalls. 'During the process I was injured a few times, but nothing too serious. It was all manageable.'
Helena also relocated to Australia before the event, and had her tickets ready to fly back to America late in October, 2015. Two weeks before the race, however, disaster struck.
Running future in doubt
'I usually run in the park, but went for a run on an uneven surface,' says Helena. 'Afterwards, I couldn't even walk.'
Helena had suffered a severe stress fracture in her shin, with a bruise inside the bone. 'The injury meant I had lost some bone density, but I decided to go to New York and see what I could do.'
Helena completed the New York marathon in five hours, but her stubbornness to finish the race could have cost her her future running career – had she not gone on to discover the Bionic Runner.
'I was so excited for the first few kilometres, but then the pain came on extremely strong. I limped for the final 8km and couldn’t walk after the race.'
Helena – an investment banker – was left in crutches, unable to walk, let alone run. 'I was so disappointed,' she says. 'I spent hours researching on the internet, looking for ways in which I would be able to run again.'
Road to recovery
It was whilst looking for information on elliptical training bikes, that Helena came across the Bionic Runner – the world’s only non-impact outdoor fitness trainer to mimic the motion of running.
'I was skeptical at first, but read the website, watched the videos and read all the reviews,' recalls Helena. 'I decided to buy one, and it arrived three days later. By my second run, I was hooked.'
Helena still couldn't cross the road without feeling pain in her legs, and was unable to return to running. She was, however, able to run pain-free on the Bionic Runner.
Originally conceived as a means of helping prevent injuries in runners, the Bionic Runner’s closed kinetic chain eliminates the risk of injury from impact fatigue and joint over extension – the two most common causes of joint, tendon and muscle-related strain injuries. It also features a unique 60% swing, 40% stance phase timing which, unlike an elliptical trainer, more closely replicates the motion of running.
Ultimately, the Bionic Runner allows you train as if you’re running – reaching the same heart rates and flexing the same muscles – without putting load on your joints. For Helena, this meant she could return to running, whilst allowing her injury to heal.
Fastest half marathon
Inspired by her ability to maintain her running fitness on the Bionic Runner, and with so many running dreams ahead of her, Helena signed up for the Canberra Half Marathon, earlier this year.
'I trained 100% on the Bionic Runner,' she says. Of course, Helena was understandably nervous when it came to race day in April, knowing she hadn't run at all since November 1, 2015. Helena, however, ran her fastest half marathon ever. Best of all, she was pain free.
Since then, Helena has gone on to run the Sydney half marathon, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, and now the San Francisco Half, with her weekly training incorporating two sessions on the Bionic Runner.
[paragraph] 'If I had known the Bionic Runner existed before I was injured, I would have bought it then,' she says. 'It is the perfect way of taking care of myself, and complements so much of my training. It has made me a better runner, and I want everyone to know about it.'