Breaking the Wall

January 26, 2021

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Orem,UT,United States

Member Since:

Jan 27, 1986



Goal Type:

Olympic Trials Qualifier

Running Accomplishments:

Best marathon: 2:23:57 (2007, St. George). Won the Top of Utah Marathon twice (2003,2004). Won the USATF LDR circuit in Utah in 2006.

Draper Days 5 K 15:37 (2004)

Did not know this until June 2012, but it turned out that I've been running with spina bifida occulta in L-4 vertebra my entire life, which explains the odd looking form, struggles with the top end speed, and the poor running economy (cannot break 16:00 in 5 K without pushing the VO2 max past 75).  


Short-Term Running Goals:

Qualify for the US Olympic Trials. With the standard of 2:19 on courses with the elevation drop not exceeding 450 feet this is impossible unless I find an uncanny way to compensate for the L-4 defect with my muscles. But I believe in miracles.

Long-Term Running Goals:

2:08 in the marathon. Become a world-class marathoner. This is impossible unless I find a way to fill the hole in L-4 and make it act healthy either by growing the bone or by inserting something artificial that is as good as the bone without breaking anything important around it. Science does not know how to do that yet, so it will take a miracle. But I believe in miracles.


I was born in 1973. Grew up in Moscow, Russia. Started running in 1984 and so far have never missed more than 3 consecutive days. Joined the LDS Church in 1992, and came to Provo, Utah in 1993 to attend BYU. Served an LDS mission from 1994-96 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Got married soon after I got back. My wife Sarah and I are parents of eleven children: Benjamin, Jenny, Julia, Joseph, Jacob, William, Stephen, Matthew,  Mary,  Bella.  and Leigha. We home school our children.

I am a software engineer/computer programmer/hacker whatever you want to call it, and I am currently working for RedX. Aside from the Fast Running Blog, I have another project to create a device that is a good friend for a fast runner. I called it Fast Running Friend.

Favorite Quote:

...if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie


Favorite Blogs:

Miles:This week: 0.00 Month: 266.81 Year: 266.81
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Neon Crocs 3 Lifetime Miles: 1657.61
Brown Crocs 3 Lifetime Miles: 1438.17
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Did 6 with Ariel, then 2 with Benjamin, and 1 with Jacob and Julia. Benjamin added 2 more with Joseph. I ended up with 9 miles.

Yesterday I found an answer to a question that I have been trying to answer for years. We have these odd pieces in my running:


  • Best 100 m 13.9
  • Best 800 2:12
  • Best 5 K 15:37
  • VO2 Max 75.9 
  • Funny looking form, problems with stability on the right side
  • Constant feeling of running against myself, being stuck in the mud 

Now many runners would be happy with a 15:37 5 K and a 2:23 marathon even in St. George. But I was not. Something deep inside kept telling me I was not getting what I was worth in some way with those results. I've been very disciplined in training and in recovery. I've learned the best training principles and used them. Fast Running Blog became a witness to the power of those principles as time and again I've watched runners apply them and move to the level they thought was out of their league. I wanted to know why I had those struggles.

I have visited a number of specialists who provided various explanations and attempted various cures non of which have been effective. The challenge with such a problem, I think, is that when you tell most specialists you do not have any pain, their brain shuts down. How about that: "Doctor, with VO2 Max of 75 I am barely breaking 16:00 in a 5 K on a good day, it should be low 14. Can you tell me what's wrong?" 

One day a few months ago as I sat in the temple I prayed to have the answer, and it was time for it come, I suppose, as I met Sergio in the locker room. It turned out that Sergio was a physical therapist with an interest in neurology and running. I decided to see if he had anything to offer on this matter. Working with him eventually led to what I believe is the resolution of the mystery. He gave me a referral for an spinal X-ray to test for spina bifida occulta. Two images were taken, anterior view and lateral view

His conclusion after looking at the X-rays was that I have spina bifida occulta in L-4. In plain terms, and you actually can see it quite well in the lateral view,  a chunk of L-4 on the right side is missing, which creates stability problems. It is actually quite remarkable that with all of that I was able to run mostly injury free - never skipped more than 3 days in a row for any reason ever, no more than 1 day in the last 14 years. Sergio said with this problem you live more or less OK until you are 30, then if you get fat you can start developing clinical symptoms like numbness, back pain, etc. 

This condition is something you are born and there is no cure for it. It affects about 10-20% of the population. Unlike the spina bifida manifesta, which we hear about more often, this condition is mostly asymptomatic except that you are awkward, and might be going to the bathroom more frequently than a normal person. There is no effective cure for it. Surgery helps sometimes, but in the case like mine it will most definitely make it worse. It may be possible to mitigate its effects by strengthening the hip extensors and the abdominal muscles to provide extra support.

I told Benjamin I had good news for him. My L-4 is missing a chunk, I've run 2:23 marathon with my condition which he most likely does not have, and he is my son. While I do not have plans to give up, and through faith and hard work will try to find a way to work through or around this problem, I told him that even if I fail, he will have a chance to find out how much this condition slowed me down. So will Joseph, Jacob, William, Stephen, and whoever else we are going to have. 

P.M. 0.3 with William.


Green Crocs 3 Miles: 9.30
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 7.00
From Chad Robinson on Wed, Jun 06, 2012 at 20:48:05 from

I was wondering about that Sasha. That is certainly good news your children. Plus it is extra motivation for you to never get fat and lazy (as if you need it).

From elle on Fri, Jun 08, 2012 at 21:12:06 from

Hi Sasha,

I hope you are feeling better. I know all too well the pain of thinking or knowing you can run faster but you feel "in the weeds". I am starting to train seriously after about 25 years off, I feel like I am gasping for air sometimes. Now that you know what is wrong hopefully you can fix it. Best wishes to you.

From Kory on Fri, Jun 08, 2012 at 22:15:49 from

You know through faith you've achieved a lot. Because of your trust in God and faithfulness and righteousness he has honored you in your hard effort at running. Your a true warrior and great friend Sasha and I love your no give up attitude.

You know I have a titanium rod in my leg now that frustrating but I haven't given up. You inspire me even more.

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