SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Some running experts point to factors like foot type, stride length, muscle strength, flexibility and intensity sustainment when it comes to great runners. For marathon runner Brittany Dino, some might suggest it was simply her drive to feel normal and persistence.
Dino, a 5th grade teacher at Chatham Academy and mom to 6 year old twin girls and a 7 year old daughter, was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari malformation in high school.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Chiari malformations are structural defects in the base of the skull and cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. Normally the cerebellum and parts of the brain stem sit above an opening in the skull that allows the spinal cord to pass through it (called the foramen magnum). When part of the cerebellum extends below the foramen magnum and into the upper spinal canal, it is called a Chiari malformation (CM).
“My symptoms were probably at the end of middle school. It was just like headaches and not only just headaches, I call them floaters. What you would see is like random dots in your vision and they just kind of like wiggled around so instead of seeing a clear picture, like you would see on a tv, think of like, you had too much static in the background and that’s all you saw.” said Dino.
She continued, “Then it would turn into like looking through a pinhole because everything around your eye was just darkened out and then you just see in a tunnel and then it would completely go out. So, that kept getting severe.”
The symptoms impacted her life so much that she just wanted to be in an enclosed room and go to sleep. However, she noticed one thing that helped her to feel better.
“If I ran, it made me feel better. The endorphins from running, I never had any symptoms.”
Not only did she not have any symptoms when she ran, she was good at it.
“When I was in middle school, I loved basketball. I was the point guard and my basketball coach, he was also the English teacher, and he would always talk about how fast I was, and I would always finish my laps around the basketball court while everybody else was still huffing and puffing. He was also the track coach, and I was in 6th grade so we couldn’t really join track yet, and he signed me up for my first 5K.”
She continued, “Me not knowing what that is, my mom prepared me this huge breakfast. I had like pancakes, bacon and eggs. She was so proud of me. You don’t eat that before you run. I found the hard way at the end. I got sick, but I felt so great, and I did really good for my age. Like I was in like top 10 of the finishers and at my young age. It was a small race, but it still felt great.”
Once Dion entered high school her symptoms got worse.
“I kept blacking out with headaches and I remember being in my English class and I Just remember waking up and not realizing that I was out.” she said.
According to Dino, her doctors in West Virginia didn’t know much about Chiari malformation.
“I’m kind of glad I didn’t do what they were supposed to do back then, which was immediately surgery. I kind of waited it off because then I had sports, I didn’t want it to interrupt with that because I was a runner.”
Once she got pregnant with her first child her obstetrician informed her that her condition could be serious and pushing through delivering her daughter could end her life and recommended, she have a cesarean delivery
After she gave birth to her twin daughters, her symptoms of migraines and flutters got worse, as they increased from once a week to every day.
“I was just miserable every day. I couldn’t live for my kids, I just kind of was like would sit on the couch or I would need to excuse myself and lay in bed and then telling my girls, ‘No, mommy is not feeling good.’, repeatedly, it was just too much.”
Dino contacted a neurosurgeon in Savannah, and scheduled surgery. “It was history since then.” she said.
Well, everything was history except her love for running, even though her doctor told her she would never run again after the surgery.
“When I was told this, I immediately signed up for every race. Every two weeks, I had a race.”
After her surgery, Dino ran the Cooper River Bridge Run, Gate River Run in Florida, PeachTree Road Race. However, it was the Love Chocolate Half Marathon where she qualified for the New York City Marathon.
“I just scheduled every race I could because I was like this is going to be it, I don’t know what’s going to happen to my future but as well as, get my name on there, let’s go.”
The qualifying time she needed to participate in the New York City Marathon was 1:30 and she finished the half marathon a few seconds faster.
The New York City Marathon is an annual marathon that courses through the five boroughs of New York City. It is the largest marathon in the world.
This year it will be held on November 6th and Dino knows it will not be a walk in the park.
“This will be honestly my second marathon, so that would be an issue. Trying to get the mental game. also, we’re at sea level, so we’re used to the flat land here and I heard there is about four bridges we have to go through over in New York on this race.”
She continued, “So the hills are going to be a challenge, even though I’m from West Virginia, I loved hills back then, it’s a little different now that my body got used to this flat ground.”
Dino will have to run 26.2 miles in order to finish the marathon, but she has a plan to help keep her motivated to finish, listening to music throughout.
“I go from anything from Disney, because used always push my girls in the stroller so we’d always blast that, so I go from Disney to 80’s because who doesn’t love 80’s and then I go to some type of like alternative rock just to get me into that rhythm for the pace and then if that gets too much, podcasts has seemed to be helping, podcasts keep your mind off it. So, my goal is to run with music all the way until at least 18 and then if I have to switch to podcast then that’s what I will do.”
She continued, “I just would love to just to finish. New York is one of those runs that you’re not going to win it, you’re not going to be on top, it’s a world marathon so therefore it’s big. You have so much crowd, it’s so busy so to get around people to even get into the pace you usually run is going to be hard. So, finishing, being there in that atmosphere, being there from West Virgina is just a big thing right there, it’s just to run New York is amazing and to time qualify, that’s, love right there.”
Those interested in learning more about Dino’s journey can connect with her on Facebook by clicking here. You can also connect with her on Instagram by clicking here. Those interested in helping to cover the cost of the Dino attending the New York City Marathon can click here.