Cabot runner reaches goal: ‘Made perfect in weakness’

    May 6, 2019

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    Laranda Burrows running across the finish line of a half-marathon in Ireland on March 16 – a goal that has topped her bucket list since college. CABOT – “Anyone who knows me knows I love to run,” said Laranda Burrow. “It’s just something in my blood.”

    Laranda, a speech and language pathologist for Bayou Meto Elementary School in Jacksonville, started running in college as a way to exercise and relieve stress, but it soon turned into a passion. Running a marathon in another country was on the top of her bucket list.

    “Running is Laranda’s escape,” said Donnie Burrow, Laranda’s husband and next generation pastor at First Baptist Church, Cabot. “I think she likes to run because it’s an hour that is just for her. She has a pretty stressful job, so she enjoys her time of running and working out as a way to unwind after work.”

    Laranda and Donnie Burrow pose for a photo at the finish line of the Tralee Harriers Half-Marathon in Tralee, Ireland. Laranda Burrow finished the half-marathon – a long held goal of hers – in spite of numerous health-related setbacks. She credits God for giving her the strength to run. Donnie Burrow, Laranda’s husband, serves as next generation pastor at First Baptist Church, Cabot.

    First setback

    Laranda Burrow continued to run and train over the next years to reach her goal, but it came to a stop in 2014 when she started having lower back and hip pain. She was diagnosed with scoliosis and was told she shouldn’t run again.

    “You’re saying I can’t run anymore?” Laranda Burrow asked the doctor.

    “Well, let’s just say if you were a racehorse, I wouldn’t bet any money on you,” the doctor replied.

    For the next two years, Laranda Burrow sought help and advice from other professionals. Her new goal was to get her body back to where she could safely run.

    She tried Rolf therapy, a mix between physical therapy and a massage that releases muscle tissue that has been bound or constricted by repeated trauma or injury. The relief was temporary, and treatments were expensive.

    Laranda Burrow’s back began to hurt all the time, and she begun having trouble doing everyday chores.

    “While I’ll admit that there was still a tiny glimmer of hope somewhere in the back of my mind, the dream of ever running an actual race again seemed about as realistic as wishing I’d be a princess one day,” said Laranda Burrow.

    At the end of 2017, Laranda Burrow was about to turn 40. She was in pain most of the time and was unhappy. The despair from being told she couldn’t run evolved into resentment and disgruntlement.

    “I think it was this frustration that eventually spurred me into action,” said Laranda Burrow. “One day, I finally woke up and said, ‘To heck with what the doctors and everyone said. I’m running anyway!’”

    She began running again and felt that happiness she once had come back.

    “It didn’t matter that I was slow or couldn’t run as far as I had before. I was just happy to be moving again,” she said.

    After a month of running, she noticed she was having a lot of trouble breathing.

    “In retrospect, I should have stopped and gone back home,” said Laranda Burrow. “But I was 40, and I was stubborn.”

    Laranda Burrow began to cry as she continued to run the route she ran days before without any problem before making it back home. She hid in a dark area of her yard so her husband and children could not see her.

    “I remember wondering why something couldn’t just go right in my life,” said Laranda Burrow. “I looked up into the stars as if they were the face of God, and I cried my eyes out. I could smell defeat all over me. I felt like such a has-been.

    “I remember feeling like my life as I’d imagined was over. Running had been my escape from stress and life when I needed a break. It was something I loved so much, and it had been part of my identity. It was gone,” said Laranda Burrow.

    Second setback

    In February 2018, Laranda Burrow was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lungs. Her pulmonologist told her that she could begin running again once she started taking blood thinners.

    She also began seeing a physical therapist that specialized in the Schroth Method, a nonsurgical treatment for people with scoliosis. The therapist taught Laranda Burrow exercises to help strengthen her core and hips, which are essentials to running.

    In the following months, Laranda Burrow was gradually able to get back to running like she did before her scoliosis diagnosis.

    Third setback

    “The third health setback came later that spring when I was diagnosed with stage IV endometriosis,” said Laranda Burrow. “I’d apparently had it for years and never knew it.”

    Endometriosis is a condition where uterine lining is present on other organs inside the body. The damage in her body was so extensive it couldn’t be repaired laparoscopically. In August, Laranda Burrow underwent major abdominal surgery and was cut open from hip to hip.

    “I was instructed to not exercise – especially run – for at least six weeks,” she said. “Being the rebel I was, I went for a slow walk around my neighborhood five days after.

    “I ended up giving my doctor’s nurse such a hard time about wanting to exercise again that she ended up giving me clearance to walk on a treadmill when two weeks had passed after surgery. And so, exactly one week after surgery, I did just that,” Laranda Burrow said.

    By December, Laranda Burrow was running better than she ever had before.

    “I never thought I’d see the day where I could manage to run seven consecutive miles without passing out, but I was doing it,” she said.

    The Burrow family was planning a trip to Ireland for March 2019, and Laranda began to wonder if there was a race the week she would be there.

    “As it turned out, there was a half-marathon and 10K the day before St. Patrick’s Day in Tralee, a town I knew we’d be near at the time,” said Laranda Burrow. “While my fears told me to go with the 10K, my heart said I needed to do something challenging.”

    Fourth setback

    In January, Laranda Burrow signed up for the Tralee Harriers half-marathon. Three days later, she sprained her ankle.

    “It was sad to watch,” said Donnie Burrow. “Those challenges just kept coming one right after the other. Your heart couldn’t help but break for her. She had this big dream she wanted to accomplish, but then came the blood clots, surgery and a sprained ankle just weeks before.”

    Laranda Burrow lost a month and a half of training time, but continued doing weights. She was finally able to run again with just two weeks left before the race.

    Race day

    “When the day of the race came, I knew I wasn’t prepared by normal standards,” Laranda Burrow said. “I also knew that the fact I had made it all the way to where I was from where I started was anything but normal. It was supernatural, and I would depend on that same supernatural strength to get me through the race.”

    The day of the race had awful conditions.
    The temperature stayed in the 40s, and there were wind gusts up to 50 mph. It rained the entire time, and it was at an altitude Laranda Burrow wasn’t used to.

    “It was definitely a challenge, but the verse printed on my right sleeve reminded me that God’s ‘power is made perfect in weakness,’” Laranda Burrow said, quoting 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV).

    Contact Sarah Davis at sarah@arkansasbaptist.org.

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