• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Running Down a Mysterious Disorder

July 22, 2018

Sharing Mayo Clinic patient Pat Foley out in the forest and hiking on a bridgeDetermined to understand the reason for the strange hitch in his stride, marathon runner Pat Foley pushed forward for years until he reached the office of a Mayo Clinic movement neurologist.


An avid marathoner, Pat Foley saw running as a way of life. The 70-year-old Northfield, Minnesota, resident has logged more than 80,000 miles on foot so far. During his 50s and 60s, he did not miss a daily run for 18 years. But a decade ago, that way of life began to erode.

In 2009, Pat's gait took on a hitch so slight that even he didn't notice it right away. But over time, the hitch caused a series of falls that set him on a search for answers that lasted years. That search ended at Mayo Clinic in the Department of Neurology, where Pat received a diagnosis of repetitive exercise dystonia.

"For years, I'd be out running, and people would say, 'What's with your foot?'" Pat says, explaining that as a result of the condition, his right foot turns in and under when he takes a step. "And now I can finally say I know what it is, and it's a very rare neurological condition."

Although dystonia, a movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contraction, has limited treatment options and no cure, getting a diagnosis has given Pat understanding and peace of mind about his symptoms.

"I'm accepting of the fact that my running days are over, and I'm OK with that," Pat says. "I got 80,000 miles." Read the rest of Pat's story.
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This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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