I’ve Tackled Triathlons, Marathons, and Mountain Races—All While Living With Crohn’s Disease

Managing my symptoms of this inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) requires a ton of my energy, so I love that running takes some of the power away from my diagnosis and gives it back to me. I fell into the sport when I joined the high school track team, and in college, I ran on my own for fun as an outlet for stress. I finished my first half marathon during my senior year. Despite making some rookie mistakes (like having zero strategy for sports nutrition and a penchant for running in cotton T-shirts), my mindset was totally dialed in. I was—and still am—so grateful to be the one to decide where, when, how far, and how fast to run.

Since then, I’ve completed a sprint triathlon, two marathons, and numerous half marathons, 25Ks, 10Ks, and 5Ks on the mountain trails near where I live in Juneau. I also did a cross-country, self-supported bike trip (meaning, no crew around to help with supplies and necessities!) with a friend in 2013, shortly after graduating college. It was both awful and amazing. Riding 2,000 miles from Baton Rouge to California, on a poorly fitting bike with almost no training, I learned I can keep going even when I think I can’t. That’s a lesson that has served me many times as a runner.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, though. After having a baby during the height of the pandemic, I experienced a Crohn’s flare-up shortly after, which I believe was triggered by the stress of sleep deprivation coupled with managing everything else going on: my work, my marriage, and running, for starters. In the last few years, I’ve gone through gallbladder surgery, three bouts of COVID-19, mono, and another upper respiratory infection. For years, it felt like just when I was ready to run consistently again, some new barrier would get in my way. It was demoralizing—until I shifted my mindset. When I let go of a goal-oriented approach, focused on having fun, and gave myself permission to walk or slow down, I started to enjoy running again. I used to focus on whatever race I was training for, but now I’m happy just to run for its own sake.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my running goals, though. Eventually I plan to run either a 50K or 50-mile trail race, but I’m not rushing to get an event on the calendar. Right now, I’m focusing on my health and taking one day at a time.

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