They call me Doc. Running Doc.

Running medicine is my life. As past medical director of Competitor Group’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon series and the current medical director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program, I’ve been responsible for more than 350,000 runners and walkers per year – not including a busy private practice in midtown New York.

And now, through this website, I can communicate directly with you. Although diagnosing specific problems over the internet is impossible, we can discuss injuries and conditions and share the most current information on prevention, treatment, and recovery so that when you see your physician, you can be better informed.

When I decided to start start this blog, I was excited but nervous. How could I get people to start thinking “medically” about their running health? Then I remembered a story from my medical school days at Emory University…

I chose Emory’s medical school because of a physician there named J. Willis Hurst. Dr. Hurst was famous for writing The Heart, a book on every cardiologist’s shelf. He taught the “clinical methods” course.

On my first day of this course, the entire class of 125 students sat in the Grady Hospital auditorium waiting for Dr. Hurst. He arrived 5 minutes late. Dr. Hurst walked down to the stage, faced us, and in a heavy southern drawl said, “Good mornin’.”

And then, “I woke up this morning and asked myself: How many Coca-Cola signs are there between my breakfast room and Grady Auditorium? “I then showered and had my Special K with skim milk and some sliced banana for potassium. I drank my fresh-squeezed orange juice with a tweak of grapefruit juice, cause I like the twang, in 12 sips. I then tied my tie in a Windsor knot…it took three times to do it just right. I grabbed my briefcase, went to my car, got in and started it up…”

Dr. Hurst proceeded to describe, in graphic detail, his route: stop signs, traffic lights, turns and Coca-Cola signs. This went on for 45 minutes. Mind you, this was a 50-minute lecture.

Finally, the story ended.

“You see,” said Dr. Hurst, “there are four Coca-Cola signs between my breakfast room and the Grady auditorium.”


“I know….you all think J. Willis here is either senile or on drugs!”

At this point we were all nodding yes.

“You see, my young colleagues, this is what medicine is all about. If I hadn’t asked myself, ‘How many Coca-Cola signs?’ I couldn’t now stand before you and tell you there are four.”
We were still lost. Until he said, “If you don’t ask yourself, ‘Does this patient have the murmur of aortic stenosis?’ you will never hear it. If you don’t ask yourself, ‘Does this patient have a posterior cruciate ligament tear?’ you will never find it! Class dismissed. See you next week.”

That lecture has affected my practice more than any other single thing in my life. Ask the right questions, and you’ll find the right answers. A great doctor doesn’t always know the answers – but he does know how or where to find them.

Now it’s your turn. Ask those questions, and I will do my best to find the answers. I look forward to our dialog. Send your questions to askrunningdoc@runningdoc.com and look for answers here on Ask Running Doc!

Lewis Maharam, M.D.