I started running when I was 22. Over the last 18 years, I have run dozens of races and completed 8 marathons while living with chronic illness. I have gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying) which causes severe stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. There is no cure for this condition and only a few treatments available which offer temporary relief.
After many years of failed treatments, hospitalizations and feeding tubes, I had a gastric neurostimulator (stomach pacemaker) implanted on March 3, 2011. While the pacemaker has provided some relief, my symptoms continue to be debilitating. I continue to run whenever possible even when I’m experiencing stomach pain and nausea. However, there are many days that I cannot run because of vomiting and fatigue.
I did not run for weeks when I met Joan Benoit Samuelson at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Expo. During her talk, she kept repeating “run your own race” – inspiring words that I needed to hear at the time. It can be an emotional struggle when I want to run but my body won’t let me. It is especially difficult when I see my identical twin sister running consistently and surpassing her race goals.
I have learned that I cannot compare myself to my twin or any other runner. I cannot even compare myself to the runner I was before I got sick. My body has changed and my running has changed. I have become the “go with the flow” slow runner and that is the runner I am meant to be today. I am truly grateful for every step that I am able to run. I appreciate every moment when I run – that is why I run without expectations, without time goals, without music, without a Garmin, but always with gratitude.
On her photo, Joan Benoit Samuelson wrote “Wishing you a great run through life” and I am determined to do just that! My twin and I dubbed ourselves “Twins Run in Our Family” since we are identical twins and opposite runners. We run together to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer in memory of Leah’s brother-in-law Michael who died of leukemia on March 17. 2003 and our grandmother GG who died of cancer on July 16, 2012. You can follow our journey online: