Team Challenge: Why did I recommit?

Team ChallengeI’m currently mentoring nine individuals who will run or walk the 2011 Las Vegas half marathon as part of Team Challenge. We are two weeks aways from the recommitment deadline, which is when Team Challenge participants must make a final decision about whether they will commit to completing 13.1 miles in Vegas and reaching their fundraising goal.

Las Vegas will be my sixth half marathon with Team Challenge and periodically I am asked why I continue to run and fundraise with the group. The following excerpt (from an email I sent to my mentor group this morning) explains why I have recommitted to running the Vegas race with Team Challenge this year: 

Why did I recommit?
Because I’ve seen what these diseases can do to people, and I know from personal experience how much the money we raise improves people’s lives. When I was diagnosed over three decades ago, there was essentially only one type of medication used to treat Crohn’s. For me, every single day included severe gut pain. In the 30+ years since then, CCFA (with money raised through Team Challenge and other fundraising efforts) has helped fund hundreds of research studies. For someone like me, those studies have led directly to a much higher quality of life ... most of my days are now pain-free and my disease flare-ups are fewer and shorter.

Still not convinced? Let me tell you a story about this past month ...

Although today my Crohn’s is fairly well managed thanks to recent treatment advances, I still must deal with the damage created by fighting the disease for over 30 years. For me, that means receiving fluids and various nutrients (which my scarred and shortened digestive system can no longer absorb) via IV line. On September 18, I was hit with a blood infection (likely contracted through my IV) which landed me in the hospital. A few days later, my implanted IV line failed and needed to be immediately removed and replaced . . . which involved a minor surgical procedure. Thanks to my body’s ongoing fight against this infection, every morning has been a struggle to get up, get dressed, get out the door. And most days feel like I only have about three or four hours of energy total.

So on September 28, I told Becky1 I didn’t believe there was any way I would be ready to run (or walk, or even crawl) 13.1 miles in December. In other words, I had decided not to recommit to Team Challenge Vegas this year. Becky’s response was simple and straight to the point: “Keep your head up. You’ve done this before, and you will be amazing! Just listen to your body and take your time.”

Living with Crohn’s means there are a continuous series of challenges to be met and overcome. Sometimes the challenges are simple, everyday things that healthy people take for granted (“make it to work today”), while sometimes the challenges are more ambitious (“raise $4,000 and run 13.1 miles”). Everyone I know with Crohn’s disease steps up to plate every single day and overcomes challenges. I’ve seen individuals with Crohn’s become a rock star guitarist, become a top-ranked doctor and leading researcher, raise a wonderful family, run a full marathon and accomplish almost anything else you can imagine.

Becky was right. This is just another challenge, like so many of the other challenges I’ve encountered — and overcome — during my life. At the very least, I need to give it the best shot I can.

So I’ve recommitted to Team Challenge and the Las Vegas half marathon on December 4. And I want all of you to be there with me, as we stand (and run and walk) together against Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Let’s meet this challenge!

  1. Becky is the Endurance Manager for CCFA-Wisconsin’s Team Challenge program. []

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