Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | June 14, 2013

Code Ninja

Duke Raleigh athletes challenge themselves on a 5K obstacle course

Dr. O'Malley

Donald F. O’Malley, Jr, MD

by Donald O’ Malley, MD

We may look like ordinary doctors and nurses to you, but a few of us are secret ninjas. Drs. Keith Michael, Michael Comstock and I – along with others – proved our mettle in the recent Ninja Challenge.

Dr. Debbie Bradley, an oncologist with Duke Hematology/Oncology, was one of our teammates. She proved an invaluable addition, since she used to be a competitive figure skater and is now involved in mountain biking and kick boxing. As we saw in the run, such balance and fight skills are useful to a ninja.

The staff at our office in Raleigh embraced the challenge and became a part of the adventure. Our two X-Ray technologists, Mallory Goodnight and Jenny Moore, along with Jenny’s husband, Chris, joined the team. They were a dominant force on the course, especially when we had to run across the water and throw ninja stars. (If you don’t know what ninja stars are, come out to the Ninja Challenge next year to find out.)

Our team also included the powerhouse Abby Bentley RN (operating room), who filled in for her husband, Dr. Greg Bentley, one of our nonoperative spine partners, because he had recently undergone wrist surgery. Fran Horcher, RN (operating room) was a volunteer and acted as the team cheerleader, as she always had encouraging words.

The Duke Raleigh Hospital team was fortunate, in that most of us already live relatively active lifestyles. So the Ninja Challenge was not some far-off goal of epic proportions that required us to put down our XL sodas and get off the couch. It did act as a reminder, though, any time we may have wanted to drift into a comfy, vegetable state, to continue to stay active.

A cousin told me about the Ninja Challenge and that it began in honor of one of his friends who had passed away at a young age and the proceeds went to charity. The Ninja Challenge website tells the story: “This project is in memory of Karl Andrei Besas, a friend, brother, classmate … adventure seeker and a true ninja. We created this race to remind you to live like Karl and always seek out adventure, push your limits and enjoy every moment.” Knowing that the race was for such an admirable cause – and that it offered new challenges for me – led me to try it out.

The Ninja Challenge is all about overcoming adversities, both physical and mental. However, the hardest part of the race, for me, was the rough terrain. Because I am so used to running on paved roads, moving through the trees, rocks, ditches and hills that I faced during the race became my greatest struggle and left me exhausted by the end.

Though most of us were sore and walked a bit slower in the days following the race, we had no injuries. While the extent of our wounds was brush burns and sore calves, we have seen several patients come in due to injuries from races like these. Before the race, we made sure that Dr. Andre Grant, who wasn’t racing because he was on call, was ready in case any of us got bent out of shape.

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give on preventing injury is to spend an adequate amount of time training before any race. Be sure not to overwhelm your body by doing too much too quickly. Though there is no sure way to prevent an injury while racing, you can lessen your chances of an accident by training properly and at a steady rate.

The Ninja challenge was a fantastic experience and one that I would most definitely do again. Our team had a great time, and the support we were given was even greater. Big thanks to all the volunteers at the race, the family and friends who came out to see and support us, and the Duke Raleigh Hospital Orthopaedic Center for donating the shirts we wore on race day.

To us, this race was purely for the experience of working together and having fun. And such a goal was completely fulfilled, for we ran, sweat, struggled and laughed through this race as one. It was great to see all these people who I know well work together in a different environment than we are used to working in, and it was nice to see each team member helping one another and offering words of encouragement along the way. The unbelievable teamwork paid off, too, because even though we had no aspirations of placing in the top, we ended up finishing in the top 20 of almost 100 teams.

We plan to participate again next year. Maybe we’ll go for the gold!


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