Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Sam Toscano

Overcoming Adversity

Published April 30, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

A graduate of Henninger High School in Syracuse, Sam Toscano attended St. Bonaventure University in Oleans, NY, where he studied marketing and played Rugby. Hitchhiking home after practice one night in his junior year, Toscano was hit by a car. It happened fast. He remembers the car running over his right leg and left foot.

The accident left Toscano with two shattered bones in one leg and a missing portion of the other foot. Swelling in the calf required muscle incisions and skin grafts, as surgeons contemplated an amputation. Fortunately, he left the hospital two months later with both legs.

It took Toscano four months of physical therapy and reconstructive surgery before he could walk again. Running was certainly not on his mind the following summer, when former schoolmate Jeffrey Morganti convinced him to enter the Great Race triathlon in Auburn. Morganti ran the opening 10-kilometer footrace, while Toscano competed in the final canoe leg. He still had external screws and rods holding his shins, but was able to row with his arms and upper body.

As Toscano put the accident behind him and rebuilt strength in his legs, the residual bio-mechanical asymmetry created extreme pressure on one foot. Besides causing a hammer toe condition, friction on the outsole of his left shoe accelerated its wear, and required him to buy new shoes every month.

Gradually, he conquered the challenges of his injury and enjoyed the spoils of western society's sedentary life. Conscious of his lack of fitness, Toscano took up running. An article by famed writer-marathoner Hal Higdon inspired him to train for the Mountain Goat. Six weeks after his first run, he tackled Syracuse's toughest road race.

In preparing for the Mountain Goat, Toscano thought that the water towers provided a scenic backdrop for the race. He was well into his second mile before he realized that the hills and the towers were part of the course. He completed the Mountain Goat 10-miler, and was hooked on racing.

Mostly a fair weather runner, Toscano became a regular of the Mountain Goat and the Corporate Challenge in recent years. Training for the 1999 Utica Boilermaker 15K brought back an old companion, pain. Uncertain whether running was supposed to be inherently painful, or whether his injuries caused his pain, Toscano turned to Fayetteville podiatrist Dr. Joseph Novek. An artist at his trade, Novek crafted a special orthotic insert that permitted Toscano to run the Boilermaker.

Toscano has put his accident behind him, and continues to run for fitness and stress relief. A testimony to those challenged in mind, and an inspiration to those challenged in body, Toscano celebrated another Central New York spring by seeking the soft trails and shady paths of neighborhood parks.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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