Gear up, this is a long one!
When I was a freshman in college, I began running. After being a member of track for 4 years, and hating even the 2 lap warm up, I still don’t know why or how I started enjoying running. Nevertheless, my mom and I decided we were going to run the Race for the Cure in Pittsburgh on Mother’s Day that year. This race benefits Breast Cancer which my aunt, thankfully, battled and won.
We had walked the race for many years, but had taken years off. My mom and I decided 1) we wanted to race, and 2) we wanted to get back into supporting my aunt, and her sister-in-law. The race is huge, and the amount of support you see there, and all the women who have beat cancer, is amazing.
I never ran fast, I never ran far. My mom and I started with a general run/walk, run/ walk for as long as we could run. Eventually, we knew we were able to run at least the 5k in May.
After that first 5k, my love for running transpired. It was no longer something I needed to do to make it through the race, but instead something I longed for everyday. I started running faster, and further. I no longer needed those walking breaks like in the beginning. I became a runner, and my mom found her passion that she had put to the side many years ago.
Eventually, though, something wasn’t right when I ran. I am not exactly sure when it happened, but it was somewhere within the year after I began. I would go for runs, with a typical one lasting 4 miles. That is the distance down the park where I live and back again. It was a good distance for me, and I felt accomplished every time I finished.
Until I no longer felt accomplished. Instead, I felt sick. I ended my runs in pain. I’m not talking about a pain in my foot, or my legs are in pain. I’m talking about stomach pain. It seemed every time I went running, I ended up doubled over in pain within an hour of finishing. I didn’t know anything was wrong with that, and I kept running.
Eventually, it began to affect me during running. I could no longer finish 4 miles without being in pain, and usually needed a bathroom. I began to get scared that I was doing something wrong. I tried changing food before I ran, I tried not eating food, I tried, what I thought, everything.
There came a time, when I ended up passing out in the shower. I had actually gone to the doctor a few days before this to get checked out. He knew what was going on, but didn’t see anything wrong until I passed out and started seeing blood when I went to the bathroom. This was during my sophomore year in college, on a Monday morning.
I hadn’t felt great the night before, and it was typical I didn’t go back to school until Monday mornings. I was a paranoid sophomore, who couldn’t miss class. Therefore, my mom drove me back up to school, knowing something was wrong with me. I knew something was wrong, but my doctor hadn’t gotten back to me, and I was more scared about schoolwork. Looking back, I took school wayyy too seriously, and should have listened to my body even more.
Within a couple hours of being in school, my doctor called me back, and told me I needed to be checked into the hospital that night. That night? How would that happen? It was over an hour away, and my mom would need to get me again. Cue the tears and anxiety. Luckily, my roommate Sam, was amazing. She supported me and knew I needed to get home. She made sure I had everything I needed to go home, and helped calm me down. My mom (who had just gotten home) turned around and came back to get me.
I spent the next 3 nights in the hospital. Every test known to man was performed on me. I have actually had more tests done than most middle-aged women have ever had done. When my grandma has to go in for tests, I know what is going to happen, and usually warn her. But nothing was found. No abnormalities. No results on my scans.
This was disheartening. I didn’t want something to be wrong, but I wanted to know what was wrong with me. I was discharged and sent to UPMC Digestive Disorder clinic. It was here I received my answer. My doctor was able to look further into all those tests I had done, notice some very small abnormalities, and do further tests.
Turns out, I had Lymphocytic Colitis. It’s nothing that is life threatening, thank goodness. Luckily, I was given a high dose of steroids, which stopped my flare up, and calmed down my colon.
Lymphocytic Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the colon. The steroids were prescribed for 3 months, during which I hadn’t done much running. I felt great; much better than before. I ended up getting off the steroids, but resumed my daily activities including running. Unfortunately, this is when I realized that my symptoms were not gone, and I still couldn’t run. Back to the Doctor I went, and ended up learning that with Lymphocytic Colitis, my body doesn’t produce enough electrolytes. This causes me to feel off when eating bad for a few days, make a stomach flu linger for a few extra days, and, need to replenish my electrolytes.
I was told to drink 1 liter of Gatorade before I went running. Um, I never drank anything before running. Running with a full stomach? Hello, no. But I was determined to run again pain free. I did as I was told, and for the first time in months, I was pain free after running! Here it was, the simplest fix, that no one could see. I eventually switched to G2 (for less calories), then Powerade Zero, and most recently, to SMART water. I began to get sick of any flavor, and just couldn’t handle chugging all of this before running.
Surprisingly enough, my stomach never felt full when running, and still doesn’t. My body needs those electrolytes that I drink right before. I am able to stay hydrated without getting sick. I am now able to drink only 16 oz before running and I am good. However, no matter how much I drink, long distances still don’t work. When training for my half marathon last year, I could never drink enough to make it through my long runs without getting sick.
I am glad I do not have anything wrong with me, per say, and I am not hurting anything by running. I have had more tests to make sure. The thought of long runs kills me with jealousy. I want to run that distance, but I know my body can’t handle it, as it showed me during mile 8 of the Pgh half marathon last year. No matter how much I drink before/during, it just doesn’t match, so I am learning to be ok with shorter distances, as hard as that is.
Whew. Ok, so why did I just tell you all of that? Because others aren’t so lucky with their Colitis. Abby shares her story, and has Ulcerative Colitis, which is much worse than what I have. I am lucky to only have Lymphocytic colitis. I know I have it easy. Abby is hosting the “Kick Ass Virtual 5k” to raise money for Team Challenge, which is a group of runners and walkers who raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
It only costs $15, and you are to run/walk/ finish a 5K on April 9. Why April 9? It is the day she lost her colon last year due to this disease. You even get a chance to be entered into a raffle drawing, and emailed a race bib to wear!
I challenge you to this 5K. For just $15, you can’t beat it! Don’t do it for me. I am not asking for sympathy, or anything for myself. This disease affects me, but not as much as others. Instead, do it for all of those who have it much worse, and feel the effects of their disease everyday.
For more information and to join, visit her site here!
- Do you have any factors that affect you running or working out? How do you deal with it?
- Do you know anything with Autoimmune diseases?
Disclaimer: I was not asked to sponsor this or contribute in any way. I am simply asking you to think about donating because IBDs are very common, and with money towards research, I feel there could be a cure.