The weather has been brutally cold here, so I came up with a good alternative to a long run outside – “sleep in” till 6:00 am, and then get in my 8 scheduled miles on the treadmill. I loved the idea of getting a bit of extra rest, while still being able to get my run done nice and early. Unfortunately for me, my darling son decided that 4:40 am is a great time to start serenading the entire family with his latest favorite songs. After close to 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I gave up on sleep and hopped on the treadmill just after 5:15 am.
I keep the treadmill TV permanently turned to ESPN, as I find Sportscenter to be a good way to pass the time. It’s also one of the few shows that is reliably on before the crack of dawn. Today I lucked out and happened to catch one of their feature stories just as it began. The story captured my attention to the point where I barely noticed that I was running, until I had to wipe the tears out of my eyes while trying to catch my breath.
It’s the story of a young girl named Kayla Montgomery, who recently finished her career as a celebrated high school runner. Kayla’s development as a runner follows a fairly common path – she started out as an “average” runner, began to increase her speed as she trained with her female teammates, and eventually grew fast enough that she began to train with the boys’ team. Shortly after that, she began winning races. It all sounds lovely, in a fairly ordinary way. Until you learn that Kayla has multiple sclerosis (MS). She was diagnosed at 14 years old, and actually didn’t even begin her career as a runner until after her diagnosis, when numbness in her legs forced her to give up soccer. Once Kayla regained feeling in her legs, she began running, where she found more success than anyone could have ever predicted.
Watching Kayla’s story unfold, I found myself deeply moved. I believe that all of us runners know that there will come a day when we can no longer run. I think that most of us continue to run in the hope that we can push that day farther and farther away from us. It’s always there though, that little reminder that someday, this won’t be quite so easy, that will have to cut our distance a bit, and eventually stop altogether. Kayla faces that fear daily. When she runs, she often pushes herself to the point where she loses feeling in her legs. As hard as it can be to run once you get that leaden legs feeling, I can’t imagine trying to do it without feeling my legs at all. And this young girl not only perseveres through this challenge, but does it at the highest competitive level. The bravery that she displays with each run is truly amazing.
Kayla faces more physical adversity than most of us, but I believe that she and I run for the same reasons. We run to prove that physical limits are not always what they seem, that strength of spirit can overcome huge challenges, and that we are capable of amazing accomplishments if we just have the courage to believe. I hope you will take the time to watch Kayla’s story for yourself. And then I hope you will go out for your next run and remember how blessed we are to have the ability to participate in this wonderful sport.
You can find Kayla’s story here: http://espn.go.com/espnw/video/11909407/e60-catching-kayla