MISSION BREATHE AGAIN
Running is a sport that is filled with many physical and mental barriers. In the fall of 2017, as I was beginning my junior year of college and starting a new Cross Country season, I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease. This is a condition which causes Hyperthyroidism. It was a scary time for me, and also a very disheartening one because I really questioned to what extent, if at all, I would be able to continue running at the level I was capable of beforehand. I now had new physical and mental barriers that did not exist before. The biggest thing I felt was that no one really understood what I was going through. There were days where my body just didn't work, beyond just running fast, the simple act of running was something I could not do on certain days. I could explain the situation and complain all I wanted, but on the outside it simply looked like I had just regressed as a runner. Physically, and mentally, I was a shell of my former self.
But then there was Katie O'Grady. I had known Katie as a friend for a few years, and watched her inspiringly thrive as a runner despite her battles with Cystic Fibrosis and Thyroid complications of her own, but now she was my coach. There was always an extra level of respect I had for Katie, but now that I was dealing with a disease of my own, that respect reached a new level. I can recall many different occasions where I would come in as an emotional wreck right after a run on those days where my body just couldn't do it, and Katie would be there waiting for me and just talk to me about how I was feeling, give me examples of how she felt on certain days and how she overcame it. She was the only person who truly understood how I felt. Beyond her valuable opinion and experience, she treated me with the compassion that other coaches did not have. I'll never forget after my first race back, I did not run as fast as I wanted to, and while one of my other coaches had nothing to say other than a text message that said "Ouch" Katie came over to me and showed me my splits and raved about how close I was to running a good race. She tried to raise my confidence while others did not.
All season long she would just tell me stories from her own experience and promise me that good times were ahead for me, the same way that things eventually got better for her after she was first diagnosed. There were times where I truthfully felt as though I could not beat a single human being in a race, so besides the great coaching and advice, the most valuable thing she gave me was hope. Sure enough, at our conference championship, I ran a PR in the mile seemingly out of nowhere and scored some important points for the team. Katie was there on the sideline cheering me on the entire way, and was the first person I ran over to hug after the race. Things did get better for me as time went on, and while I think of how badly I struggled physically and mentally during that time, I truly do not know if my running career would have continued, let alone continue successfully, without the constant help and support of Katie. As any person trying to succeed as a runner, even with a disease or disability, or just someone who wants to be fast, you will be hard pressed to find a better person to have in your corner than Katie O'Grady.
Graves Disease/ Hyperthyroidism
Running has never been my strong suit. As a hockey player, I am used to quick sprints and exercises that use different muscles than running. Lucky for me, Katie is a very close person in my life and was able to help me switch from my hockey training to training for running. I plan to have a career in law enforcement that involves many physical tests with a major emphasis on running.
Not only was I a relatively inexperienced runner, but I also have a blood disorder called Thalassemia. This condition Thalassemia causes fatigue and weakness which I experienced a lot, especially while running. That was not my only problem with running. I struggled with the mental aspect of running. Katie was able to design a running program that worked with my schedule and allowed me to reach the personal goals I had set. She also kept me accountable and on track with my schedule so I was guaranteed to succeed!
After a hospital stay with an exacerbation, hitting rock bottom with my health I was determined to get back into running for my health. That’s when I found Kate on Instagram. After a chat, she set up a training plan that was realistic. Within weeks I felt so much stronger physically and mentally. It improved my airway clearance by being able to cough up mucus easily. As a result, my lungs felt less congested, improving my daily quality of life. I had check-ins regularly and I could ask for any advice anytime. I highly recommend going to Kate if you’re a runner with a chronic health condition, she will guide you and always have your back!