I am so excited to introduce 13 Going on Crazy’s very first Runner’s Spotlight! Grant is a fellow athlete with IBD and like me does not allow anything to get in the way of his dreams and goals. He recently entered the Kona Inspired contest to race at the Ironman World Championships in October. I am definitely cheering and voting for him as I hope that he is selected. I must agree with Grant, “it is nice to know that someone with IBD is just as crazy as me too!!!” Without further ado, I am so happy to allow Grant to take over 13 Going on Crazy today and share his story!
Why did I start running? It’s an easy answer. And I have no qualms with being honest and telling the truth, so here goes: I STARTED RUNNING BECAUSE I HATED IT!!! I know, probably not the answer you were expecting! Well, I have nothing to hide. And if I am putting everything on the table, I might as well say that one of the other main reasons for why I started running was because I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis!
Strange, huh? For twenty-three years, I was healthy and my life was finally about to start after I finished my undergraduate studies. Then one month after graduation, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the large intestine and rectum! I thought my life was over! Why after finishing a grueling five years of undergraduate work was I diagnosed with a disease that was not only extremely painful at times, but very uncomfortable to speak about with others? Why did this happen to me is a question that plagued me for the next two years.
I met with every type of medical professional and often found myself very isolated especially at my GI’s office. I would look around his waiting room and there was no one within thirty years of my age. It was sad. And I took pity on myself. I would sit and pretend to listen to what he said, but it would just go in one ear and out the other. I proceeded to live the way I had planned – as if I was not suffering from a chronic illness. I paid, dearly! Three hospital stays and a dissipating mind and spirit coupled with numerous doses of prednisone (steroids) left me wondering if my life was going to be like this forever.
My older brother was born with Cystic Fibrosis – a chronic illness where mucus builds in the lungs, digestive tract, and other areas of the body. He was never supposed to make it out of the hospital and each year my parents were given a different life expectancy. He struggled. My parents struggled. And I unfortunately was too young to realize how lucky I was to see my brother’s smiling face every morning at home. I took his quality of life for granted. But he never did! He will be turning thirty-eight years old in August and he has married to the woman of his dreams and together they have two beautiful children.
The reason why I mention my brother, even though it is very difficult for me to write about him, is because he was and WILL ALWAYS be my inspiration! After two years of watching my ulcerative colitis get progressively worse, I remember speaking with him about how similar we were even though there was an eight-year age gap. I always thought we were so different in all facets of our lives. But we both had chronic illnesses that made us different. He made me understand that life goes on and it was up to me which road I decided to take. I could either sit back and let this illness dictate my life or fight with all the strength that I had to prove that ulcerative colitis was merely a bump (and a rather large one) in the long road to recovery.
I made a promise to him and myself that I would take the challenge and run that bump over time and time again! And I have for the past few years since that conversation, as flare-ups have continually set me back but my mind has not let me stopped. My body has quit on me and I have found myself in the bathroom several times a day. I have changed my diet and given up a lot of the things that I used to enjoy! But for whatever reason, I took up running and have not looked back. Even though I tend to go to the extreme and whenever I tell my parents about my next athletic endeavor, I can hear them cringe, I keep pushing along! However, they know that in the past two years that I have decided that running would not only benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCFA) but make me healthier – they have been nothing but supportive.
I have completed a half-marathon, three marathons, and a half-Ironman competition since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I wear a fanny pack when I run with my medications and anti-inflammatories placed inside and always carry two water bottles even for short-distance runs. You see, running long-distances takes a toll on anyone – healthy or not! I have to be extra careful and I could care less about how ridiculous I may look! I love wearing my Team Challenge (the CCFA endurance program) apparel when I run knowing that I am not letting this disease dictate my life. I chose to run on that road with the bumps that sometimes come to surface for no rhyme or reason, but I am never deterred.
Recently, I entered myself into the Kona Inspired program to represent the CCFA and Team Challenge at the Kona Ironman World Championships in October of this year. I created a video and openly discussed my illness to raise hope. I am not sure what will happen from my entry (as I need as many votes as possible to receive one of the seven coveted spots), but one thing is for certain – I have succeeded in creating awareness for those who suffer from Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and IBD!
It’s difficult to imagine myself standing at the starting line next to the greatest athletes at the most prestigious endurance event in the world. But just two years ago, it was also hard to imagine myself getting out of bed early in the morning to run three miles! Running, which I used to hate more than anything, has saved me from a physical and mental standpoint. I hope everyone who reads this realizes that if I can accomplish what I deemed impossible, why can’t you?
Please take the time, click this link, and vote for my friend Grant!
QOTD: Do you have a friend that inspires or motivates you to push harder for your goals?