Running a cross-country race is an arduous endeavor, but it's a far more taxing venture for Kayla Montgomery, whose multiple sclerosis forces her to collapse at the end of races.
Deadspin's Samer Kalaf featured this remarkable video of a Mount Tabor High School (N.C.) student whose disease forced her to give up soccer but didn't steal her ability to run altogether.
Montgomery spoke with WXII-12 News in 2012 about the feelings she initially had, "I had to quit soccer because of MS, but I didn't want to have to give everything up, so I put everything from soccer into running, and it's now my passion."
The young woman recounts the initial diagnosis, "It was really hard at first. I was mad for a really long time."
And so she dove into the world of running—a sport that perhaps offers a respite and a way to quench the need to compete. However, there are repercussions.
As you can see in the video, races leave her body completely exhausted, and she stops feeling her lower extremities as soon as she stops.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society informs on a wealth of symptoms for patients. On walking issues, NMSS has this to offer: "Related to several factors including weakness, spasticity, loss of balance, sensory deficit and fatigue, and can be helped by physical therapy, assistive therapy and medications."
The New York Times' Lindsay Crouse revisited this extraordinary story on the now 18-year-old who was diagnosed three years ago with MS.
Crouse states the disease blocks signals from Montgomery's legs to her brain, staving off pain that normally hits runners throughout a race. Her legs are essentially numb to the pain of exertion.
The writer continues, "But intense exercise can also trigger weakness and instability; as Montgomery goes numb in races, she can continue moving forward as if on autopilot, but any disruption, like stopping, makes her lose control."
As mentioned briefly in the video, coach Patrick Cromwell offers, "But you can see with 800 to go, a half-mile to go in any race, you can see it's starting to happen."
The sensation is lost on Montgomery, who is focused on the task at hand. "I actually don't notice it while I run, because I zone everything out."
In the WXII report, she said, "But as soon as I stop running I collapse because I've lost complete feeling from the waist down."
More than a year later, Crouse reports Montgomery is still running and succeeding: "Last month, Montgomery, a senior at Mount Tabor High School, won the North Carolina state title in the 3,200 meters. Her time of 10 minutes 43 seconds ranks her 21st in the country."
More remarkably, she is still surprising herself:
The numbness is particularly dire for midrace falls. At her state cross-country meet last year, she clipped the heel of a fellow runner in the lead pack and crashed. Facedown with her legs splayed, she could not get up. Runners sprinted by, and she slipped from all-state contention. Seeing a rival pass was enough to get her to use a nearby fence to pull herself up and cruise into 10th place.
It was a lesson in resilience. “Now I know I can do it,” she said. “It may take a little while, but if I fall, I know I can get up.”
Montgomery, as you may have expected, will continue to run and push her body until it collapses. However, and most importantly, she will get up and keep on pushing forward.
As reported, she received quite the cold reception from potential colleges but fortunately found a place to run at Lipscomb University in Tennessee.
That is where she will continue to do more than run; she will inspire anyone who comes in contact with her amazing story.
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