Star runner battles through shin splints

Miramonte leader battles extreme case of common injury

Coming around the last bend of the 1600 meter race, all Asher Patel, Miramonte High School class of 2024, can hear is the wind howling in his ears and his shoes slapping against the rubber track. 

Patel is determined to finish in the top three in his heat at the highly respected Dublin Distance Fiesta. As he pumps his arms and quickens his stride, Patel pulls ahead of his competitors and crosses the finish line. Patel has earned not just a podium position, but a new personal best. Though he is elated with his performance, Asher feels a striking pain in his legs. 

“After I pushed in the last meet, I woke up the next day unable to walk and my legs in intense pain,” Patel said. 

Patel was diagnosed with an extreme case of shin splints in April 2021, a common injury among runners, usually the result of repetitive stress to the shin bone. Though his condition is slowly improving, he remains unable to fully participate in training. Patel has focused on recovery for the past five months, exercising cautiously to avoid regressing on his progress.

Patel started running in eighth grade at Bentley Middle School after his friend asked him to join the cross country team, but Patel never took practices seriously. When Patel joined Miramonte’s cross country team his freshman year without much interest in the sport, his expectations were low. But he proved to be varsity material after running in a 2021 time trial. Asher went on to set the all-time 1600 meter Miramonte freshman record and is on pace to break the Miramonte record of 4:12.

Patel’s early success began after running a February two-mile time trial where he finished among the top five boys on the team. After training with the varsity for one month, he was put to the test in his first 5-kilometer race. Patel finished the race in 18:18, the second-fastest time on the team. 

Though he had a respectable cross country season, his major success came in track and field. On April 24 at the Dublin Distance Fiesta, Patel became Diablo Athletic League’s top freshman miler with a time of 4:44.06 and the fastest freshman 2-miler with a time of 10:15.92.

“Asher was our top male runner last year. It is a big loss when you lose one of your key guys, especially when he’s your best,” said Miramonte varsity runner Ricky Davis, a junior.

Patel’s shin splints became evident after the Dublin Distance Fiesta. Despite this, he finished the track season, which severely worsened his injury. In May, Patel took a much-needed break from running.

“I took a month and a half off after my injury and took two weeks in crutches to avoid the use of my legs. After I felt all right to run again, I went back in for a week,” Patel said. After a brief return to summer training, Patel’s shin splints returned. This prevented him from participating in the remainder of preseason training.

Cross country and track coach Tristan Tool has Patel in a robust recovery and fitness program involving the use of gym machines and biking to ensure he maintains fitness without further straining his shins. Patel recently began running for short amounts of time while he transitions into the regular training program.

“I’m fed up with the injury and have been more than ready to get back in. It’s been tough because it seems even with all the stretches and physical therapy I’ve done, I still haven’t recovered,” Patel said.

“I am confident that he will be able to have a successful season regardless of his current ailment. He will play a pivotal role in the success of the varsity boys team,” Tool said.

Sunlight pierces the air and beats down as Patel laces up his shoes for yet another short run around the track. His teammates leave for another run and, while their voices fade away, Patel can only think about the excitement he feels to return to normal cross country training.