Voices of Youth Inspire! "Let your struggles, whatever they may be, fuel you to excel"

Avatar JulieVOY
Member since September 30, 2013
  • 116 Posts

Photo Credit Dr. Phil Ponder

Photo Credit Dr. Phil Ponder

Hey VOY! I had the chance to interview Kayla Montgomery, an inspiring high school runner, who not only tells us about the power of sport but about MS. Glide along with Kayla in this exclusive VOY interview!

Please, tell us your name: Kayla Montgomery

Your age: 18

Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?

I am originally from the United States. I'm from Ravenna, Ohio but I currently live in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

You are a high school runner, but were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Would you mind briefly explaining what that is and what it feels like when you run?

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder. This means that my immune system attacks my neurons and causes lesions to form on my spinal cord and brain. These lesions make it harder for neural impulses to be sent correctly so it can result in a variety of symptoms based off of where the lesions are located. Some common symptoms caused by MS are paralysis, blindness, numbness, and many more. MS doesn't have a cure. My symptoms include numbness from the waist down and chronic fatigue. My numbness doesn't take place unless I am over heated so when I run I can't feel anything from the waist down. It feels like there is nothing underneath me. However if I fall down during a race I have a difficult time getting back up.

You still run, practice, and race despite everything. What do you have to say to others who think it's an advantage that you can't feel your legs during a race?

It is kind of frustrating when people say that having MS is advantageous for runners. Although I can't feel my legs as I run I can still feel all of the other discomforts that accompany running. Running is much more than just your legs. The lack of sensation is actually a disadvantage for me because I am unable to keep my pace while I am running which makes it difficult to figure out when I should slow down or speed up. I can't imagine anyone would trade with me just so they could feel a little less pain in their legs while running.

Can you describe the most challenging day, race, or experience as a runner? What motivated you to get through it?

My junior year I was racing in the North Carolina cross country state meet. My goal was to place at least tenth so that I would be an all state runner. I was running with the lead pack but at the 400 meter mark I fell. At this point in the race I had just started so I could still feel my legs. Therefore I was able to jump back up and I continued running. As the race continued my legs started to go numb just as I fell a second time at the mile mark. Because I couldn't feel my legs I couldn't get back up so I just laid there and watched as my competition continued to run past me. While I laid there I considered giving up, but then I remembered how hard I had worked and I remembered how badly I wanted to be an all state runner. So I gathered all my strength and crawled to a nearby fence and pulled my lifeless legs up and slowly began running again. I began to make up for lost time and catch up to runner after runner so that when I crossed the line I would finish in tenth place. This experience, although a difficult one, was very special for me because not only did I reach my goal, but I also learned that if I fall down during a race I can still pull myself back up.

How has #thisability changed your outlook on running? What about your aspirations as a young person?

Multiple Sclerosis has greatly changed my outlook on running as well as life. MS is a very unpredictable disease so I could potentially wake up tomorrow and be paralyzed. This made me realize that my mobility is truly a gift and something I shouldn't take for granted. Therefore I have decided to make every run I run the best I can just in case it's my last run. MS has made me more determined then I was to begin with because I refuse to let this disease get the best of me. Through my running I am taking advantage of the gifts I currently have and I am beating MS by preventing it from keeping me from doing the things I love. Although MS has many negative affects I whole heartedly believe that it has helped me understand just how precious the little things in life really are. You never know how long you're going to be able to do the things you love so you should make the most out of every opportunity you still have. MS has helped open my eyes as to how precious time is.

What advice do you have for other young people who want to excel in their sport despite their own physical struggles?

As cheesy as it sounds my advice would be to never give up. Let your struggles, whatever they may be, fuel you to excel. Set goals for yourself and put forth the time and energy needed to acquire those goals. When you give up, you let your struggles win, so use the need and desire to beat whatever your struggle is to push you to success.

You are graduating from high school in a few months, any plans for the future?

I plan on attending Lipscomb University where I will run for their cross country and track and field's D1 programs. My ultimate goal is to become an All American runner which I believe Lipscomb's program will be able to help me achieve. While attending Lipscomb University I plan on majoring in Biology and eventually going into forensics.

And to leave us with one last thought, what is your favorite motto or expression?

Adversity causes some men to break, others to break records.

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