Running is a very important part of my life. After running my first race, I was hooked and I knew it was something that I could never give up. The satisfaction I get from accomplishing a running goal is unmatched, whether that goal is setting a PR, running a new distance, or even just getting out the door for a run on a day when its the last thing I want to do. I know this feeling is not unique among runners, but I believe that I have a greater appreciation of how wonderful running can be because there are times when the act of running is simply not an option for me.
When I was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an autoimmune disease with no cure causing severe abdominal pain, cramping, joint pain, and weight loss. Three days after being diagnosed, I had a stroke that left me paralyzed on my left side. Weeks of intensive rehab followed to help me learn to walk and use my left arm again.
I don't remember exactly when I started running again after my diagnosis, but running helped me with my recovery. It helped give me a sense of normalcy and gave me a chance to mentally work through all of the emotions of realizing that Crohn's would be something that I'd have to deal with for the rest of my life.
For me, running has become a non-negotiable part of my life. When my Crohn's flares up and it's all I can do to walk from my living room to the kitchen, the goal of getting back to running helps me to keep going. The strength and toughness needed to push through the final difficult miles of a run absolutely has carried over into other parts of my life to help me get through hard times. Not only has running helped to make me a stronger person in general, but I believe that having Crohn's has helped make me a better runner.
I never know when a flare is coming and I'll have to put everything on hold so I've learned to not take it for granted. When I have a bad run, I tell myself to stop feeling sorry for myself and be grateful that I was able to get out there and run. The Big Cottonwood Marathon will be my 3rd full marathon.
Update: Stefanie ran the Big Cottonwood Marathon on September 13, 2014 in 4:10:31. Congrats on another marathon, Stefanie!