CONWAY — How’s this for tough? Dr. Anne Trussell of Conway broke her tailbone during the Little Rock half marathon in March and finished anyway.
Her first full marathon on April 13 in London, England, should be a breeze.
“At the first water stop, I slipped on a plastic cup; it was raining. I slipped on a cup, just like a banana peel,” she said of her mishap in Little Rock.
The physician has continued to train for the London Marathon — 26.2 miles.
“I must have had a lapse in sanity,” she said, laughing. “Actually, I decided I wanted to run my first full marathon, but I knew it had to be something big, scenic. … I originally thought I wanted to do Boston after the Boston bombing, but they didn’t have any charity spots.
“Normally, you have to have a qualifying time or be drawn in the lottery, but you can run a charity slot. That comes with a fundraising minimum,” she said.
When Trussell, 47, started running in 2012 to lose weight, she lost 65 pounds and picked up a passion — the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
She runs as a member of the neurofibromatosis, or NF, Endurance Team to raise money and awareness for the foundation.
Trussell has raised $16,000 for the foundation,
including the $6,000, so far, for the London Marathon.
Although she played tennis as a student at Cross County High School, Trussell said she wasn’t an athlete.
“I was clumsy, not coordinated,” she said.
She had one goal in mind — to become a doctor.
“From the point when I was a kid, I never remember wanting to do anything else,” Trussell said.
Trussell grew up in the small Cross County city of Cherry Valley. Her father was a farmer, and her mother was an elementary-school teacher and Trussell’s third-grade teacher at Hickory Ridge Elementary School. Trussell’s father’s degree, however, was in nuclear physics, and when Trussell was in college, her parents moved to Idaho for him to take a job with the U.S. Department of Energy.
Trussell’s grandfather died of a heart attack, and her grandmother was a nurse, both of which probably influenced Trussell’s choice of a career in medicine, she said.
She graduated from Arkansas College, now Lyon College, in Batesville, with a degree in medical technology.
Trussell attended medical school and did her residency at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, specializing in internal medicine.
“I decided surgery was not the best thing to do because I wanted to have a family, but I still wanted to do procedures. Internal medicine was a nice balance of that,” she said.
Trussell said she met her husband, Larry, between her freshman and sophomore years of medical school. A native of Texas, he had moved to Arkansas with his family when he was 12, and the couple met through a mutual friend, she said.
“I was pregnant when I graduated from med school. Our first baby died of hypoplastic left heart syndrome when she was a day old,” Trussell said.
“That was my intern year; then I got pregnant again right away and had Joseph a year later, Abbey 19 months after that.”
After a “little hiatus” Trussell said, she gave birth to Hunter in 1998 and Parker in 2000.
“Basically, I had five pregnancies in nine years,” she said.
Larry was a stay-at-home dad, which especially helped during Trussell’s grueling residency schedule at UAMS.
“I remember when I would work really long hours; Larry would just bring Abbey and Joseph up to the hospital when I was on call, and we’d play until my beeper went off,” she said.
“We made it work. We were so poor that we qualified for Medicaid and WIC (Women, Infants and Children program). We didn’t take it, but my income as a resident — that with a husband and two kids at home — we qualified,” she said.
Having four children and a packed schedule as a physician didn’t leave a lot of time for exercise, either.
Trussell, who has lived in Conway since 1996, opened a private practice in internal medicine at Baptist Hospital, then moved her practice to Conway for five years and went back to Baptist in 2001, where she has been ever since.
She practices internal medicine, but she works two days a week at the Arkansas Pain Management and Detox Center in Little Rock. She also owns Sei Bella Med Spa, which is part of her internal-medicine practice.
“About four years ago, I saw the direction health care was taking and decided I was not going to practice internal medicine like I wanted to for the rest of my career,” she said.
Trussell opened the med spa, where she said she focuses on wellness and beauty, including weight loss. Working at the Arkansas Pain Management and Detox Center is “very rewarding,” she said.
“I’m going to stop my internal medicine practice at the end of this year,” she said, but continue her other work.
Trussell decided it was time to do something about her weight when her patients started commenting about it, she said.
“Patients started asking me if I was pregnant and going to have another baby,” Trussell said.
She weighed 211 pounds.
“I cut out all the junk food, and I stopped eating at night, and I started running,” she said.
Trussell said she has her friend Jennifer Welter of Conway to thank for encouraging her to run.
“We were at Old Chicago one Sunday, and I said, ‘I have got to lose this weight.’ She said, ‘Why don’t you run?’ I said, ‘Well, I can do that; I can put one foot in front of the other.’”
Welter is race director for Women Run Arkansas.
“She’s a certified racing coach, and so she helped me through, gave me pointers as I went,” Trussell said. “Basically, I started out on my own. It was hard. That was January of 2012; I did my first race in March 2012, which was the Little Rock half marathon.
“I didn’t feel quite as fat,” she said, describing how she felt after finishing the race. “It felt really good. When you finish a long race, you get a rush of endorphines; it’s like a natural high. You feel really good.”
She said running is a good way to relieve stress, too. She and her husband often run together.
Trussell said she and her husband of 23 years aren’t competitive when they run.
“It’s more of a friendship, mutual encouragement,” she said. “He’s much faster than I am.”
She said Pete Tanguay of Conway is her “athletic idol.”
He just ran the Rome Marathon, she said.
“There isn’t anything he can’t do. He can bike; he can swim; he can run. He is really very motivating.”
Trussell said she found out about the NF Endurance Team from Connie and Lesley Oslica, whom she met through St. Joseph Catholic Church in Conway.
“We go to St. Joseph together, and Jennifer introduced us one day after Mass,” Trussell said.
Connie Oslica has ridden an endurance bicycle race to raise money for the foundation, and Lesley is president of the Arkansas chapter of the foundation.
The Oslicas’ daughter, Katie Holt, has neurofibromatosis, which is a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. NF can lead to blindness, deafness, chronic pain, bone abnormalities, cancer and a wide range of additional complications, according to the website www.ctf.org.
Holt also works as a receptionist for Trussell at Sei Bella.
“I knew what NF was from medical school,” Trussell said, “but I’d never heard of the Children’s Tumor Foundation until I met Connie and Lesley.”
Then, Trussell said, she found out that another fellow church member had a family member who died of NF, and a cardiologist Trussell knows has a daughter with the disorder. It occurs in one out of every 3,000 births, Trussell said.
“It’s more prevalent than I realized, so it gave me a purpose to run. Since I don’t have a family member with NF, the Children’s Tumor Foundation will let you adopt a hero.”
Trussell’s hero of almost two years is 9-year-old Austin, who lives in Wisconsin.
“He was actually born with a heart defect and had open-heart surgery when he was 1,” Trussell said.
She became the NF Endurance Team captain for the Little Rock Marathon.
“Once you meet Lesley Oslica, you just don’t say no,” Trussell said.
Oslica said she admires Trussell, too.
“She has an amazing spirit of determination and wants to honor her NF Hero in all that she does,” Oslica said.
Trussell said she ran 20 miles a couple of weeks ago and planned to run 23 miles this weekend, broken tailbone and all.
“I just keep going,” she said.
London, here she comes.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.