Footman of Iron

Published: 2011-05-25 10:46:17
Author: Craig S. Semon

  Ironman podiatrist Neil J. Feldman knows the thrill of victory and the agony of “da feet.” 

“Everybody thinks feet are the ugliest body part, and people think that for me to do what I do, I must have a foot fetish,” said Dr. Feldman. “The foot is a body part. It's a very unique body part and the uniqueness of the foot to me is how it fits with the rest of the body.” 

Dr. Feldman, who owns and operates Central Massachusetts Podiatry in Worcester, has completed two Ford World Ironman Championships (with a 12:30:29 time in 2004 and 10:54:28 time in 2008) in Kona, Hawaii, and seven Ironman triathlon events overall (including a 9:59:26 time in the 2008 Lake Placid Ironman). Those events involve running 26.2 miles, swimming 2.4 miles and bicycling 112 miles. In addition, he has run six Boston Marathons (including a 3:05:24 time in 2007 and 3:06:28 time this year) and the Vermont 100 Endurance Race (with a 21:34:52 finish last year). 

“I don't like to do things just to do them. I like to do them to do really as well as I possibly can,” said Dr. Feldman, 40, who lives in Boylston. “And, if I can't train properly, I don't find the enjoyment in it, not to mention you risk injury.” 

Dr. Feldman has come a long way from being a boy wearing Adidas sneakers and corduroy trousers running through the woods in his native Sharon and handing out orange slices to agonizing marathoners struggling up and over Heartbreak Hill. 

“Running is always associated with good memories for me,” he said. “It helps me clear my thoughts. And that's the good thing about ultra-distance running, because you have hours and hours to hear your thoughts.” 

And while feet come hand-in-hand with running, Dr. Feldman didn't always want to be a podiatrist. The first time he ever heard of podiatry was when he suffered from an ingrown toenail. He was 15 and in high school, playing baseball and football.Years later, when he was a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Dr. Feldman ran his first road race, the Fourth of July 10K in Sharon, to impress a girl, who was also in the race. He ended up winning his age class. But he didn't start thinking about seriously training and competing until 2000, when he met 70-year-old Ethel Autorino, who was heading to Australia the next day to compete in the Ironman Triathlon. 

Ms. Autorino was Dr. Feldman's last patient of the day at his former podiatry practice in Washington, D.C. She inspired him to become a triathlon and marathon athlete. 

“The first Ironman I ever met was a 70-year-old woman, and I was just absolutely floored by that,” he recalled. “I'm like, that's what I want to do when I get older. That's how I want to get older.” 

The key to running form, and running injury free, said Dr. Feldman, starts with a stable base. And a base is not a stable foot or stable shoe, he insists, but the pelvis. Though feet are what land on the ground, the pelvis is where all movement is initiated, said Dr. Feldman.