01-16-2017, 09:01 AM
Perhaps the title is a bit strongly worded, since what I have is more of a "condition", but nonetheless, I wanted to share this. It's kind of long, so if you're not into the tragic story of my life and rebirth, then you may not want to read this.
I had struggled for years to find out what was ailing me since September 2010 when it all began. I was running on a full scholarship at the University of Richmond when I got a slight cold before a cross country race one day. I noticed something a little "off" that I couldn't quite put my finger on during the race, like my heart was working harder than it needed to. I had run through several minor illnesses before that, but this one was different. Over the course of the season and the following year, I began to notice the globus sensation, or the feeling of a lump in the throat.
I was still running relatively well, keeping up with my teammates in practice, but I complained that this mystery illness was holding me back and I tried in vain to describe what was happening. Various doctor's visits were to no avail. Despite the fact that I was a star runner in high school and was keeping up with the team in college pretty well, I insisted that I could be running even faster if it weren't for these little annoying symptoms that developed over the course of the season. By the end of the season, I could hardly manage to run anywhere near what I was capable of. Despite this, I served as a good 4th or 5th man on the team that made our school's historic return to XC nationals for the first time since the 80s. I felt a mixture of elation and melancholy after that team victory. I knew I was sliding fast. Nationals was the worst race of my life. I felt so good and physically ready when I wasn't competing, but the second that gun went off and all the adrenaline rushed through me, I was dead in the water. My legs wouldn't move and I brought up the end of the team that day. I had lined up next to the likes of Matthew Centrowitz, now a world champion in the mile, hoping to actually compete with them. What I didn't realize was that I had a genetic disease and it had, for no particular reason, decided to rear its ugly head at that point in time, when I was 21 and a budding professional athlete. This claim is not without merit, mind you. My sister is actually a professional marathon runner and finished 7th at the US Marathon trials, missing out on her Olympic bid, but not by that much, especially in a stacked field. I could have been great.
Despite this drawback, I continued to try everything under the sun to get my energy back, to rid myself of that damn lump in my throat that reminded me something was STILL wrong with me. I continued to run, but the running was very laborious now. I had to work extremely hard just to keep my legs moving, and keeping up the rigorous training schedule I used to have was out of the question. Fast forward to senior year. My coach and I had a good relationship, both of us being country boys from West Virginia. We shared a bond and he took particular interest in me because I was really good at running up until this point. I had red-shirted the track season and spent all summer finding crackpot ways of healing myself, thinking I was being affected by electromagnetic fields and, convinced my mercury fillings were the problem, I spent good money to have them removed. I don't regret that, but the following year was one of the lowest points of my life.
I went into the year realizing that my attempts to cure myself had been futile and, despite having kept fit by still running all this time, I decided to not go to the XC camp that our team attended every year because I was simply too slow. I would hold everyone back. That was a tough decision. I grasped at every last straw that I could, trying to convince myself that I could salvage my running career somehow. I maintained a connection to the team, coming to practice and helping out, but...