The work was taxing, and Utzinger was grateful for the support of his physical therapy assistant.
“[He] kept me from falling apart. The last two months I was physically exhausted, emotionally drained. He was the one that kept us together. It was just a hard job,” he says, noting that he would do it again if asked. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his time in Iraq.
Back in Odessa, Utzinger continued with his clinic until retiring in 2009. He came out of retirement three days later and worked for a friend for another two years before moving to Fort Worth, where he joined Alcon Laboratories as a full-time physical therapist.
That’s when he decided it was time to go back to school. Again.
“I earned the GI bill when I was in the Army, and it’s worth $80,000 of education. I couldn’t give it to my kids. It was use it or lose it,” he says. He completed his doctor of physical therapy degree from the University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences in 2019.
Today, Utzinger is starting a new business, the Fort Worth-based Runner Repair Shop, where he provides physical therapy to runners. He’s a marathoner himself and says most runner injuries are from overuse due to poor running mechanics. “If a tiny thing in their running mechanic is off, they beat on it forever,” he says.
“A patient may say, ‘My right ankle hurts.’ The reason why is because you have a problem with your left knee,” he explains. “You’re limping on your left knee and landing hard on your right ankle. So, three therapists have all worked on your ankle. Did anybody work on your knee? Let me fix your knee and your ankle will get better.”
Utzinger says he has a knack for movement and can watch someone walk into a room and know what’s bothering them.
In the past year, Utzinger has earned a doctorate, completed his 71st marathon and started a new business. What’s next?
“I need to get faster,” he says, his mind on the granddaddy of all marathons. “When I went back to get my doctorate, I slowed down a lot,” he says. “The test of a really good runner is to qualify for Boston, so I’m running harder now … so I can run for Boston.”