Lizzie Benestad is a Latin teacher at Portsmouth Abbey School. After treatment at the Norman Prince Spine Institute. She recently completed a 500-mile hike across Spain.
Lizzie Benestad is a lifelong athlete. Growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania (“Home of The Office and Joe Biden,” as she puts it), she ran track and played soccer and basketball through high school. In college, she ran cross-country and discovered an affinity for long distances.
“I ran my first marathon when I was 19, because it sounded fun,” she says. “It was that simple.” A decade later she was running two a year, with two Boston Marathons under her belt. She was also teaching Latin and Greek at Portsmouth Abbey School; coaching basketball, track, and softball; and coaching adult women runners.
All the miles she logged began taking a toll on her joints, and she had two knee surgeries, both at Newport Hospital. The procedures were successful, and she was soon back out on the road. Then she developed arthritis in her back, and the pain started to radiate to her legs.
“I really couldn’t run for long periods without a lot of pain; and after running, the rest of the day would be really bad,” Lizzie says. “I just couldn’t do the things I’m used to doing.”
Her doctor (Ralph Earp, MD, at Lifespan Physician Group Primary Care, Newport) referred her to the Norman Prince Spine Institute. Radiofrequency ablation, a non-surgical procedure that blocks pain caused by spine arthritis, was recommended.
Before the pain in her back had derailed her, Lizzie had made plans with a friend to walk the famous Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage trail across northern Spain with roots in the Middle Ages. “I knew I’d have to walk an average of 16 miles a day and carry a backpack,” she says.
Lizzie had her first treatments in February. By the end of April, she was feeling well enough to get on the plane to Europe.
“It’s 31 days of walking with only three rest days — and I was pain-free. It was an amazing trip. It’s incredible that something so simple, just walking, could provide such a rich experience. You are forced to be present at all times, just walking, or enjoying the moments of rest and connection,” she says.
“I’m also back to running three to five miles, and so far, so good. I probably will be back running marathons, at least accompanying the runners I coach. I just can’t imagine not running.”
To contact the Norman Prince Spine Institute, call 401-845-1190.