Feature

The runner with MS

Kayla Montgomery has defied medical expectations to become one of the fastest young distance runners in the country.

Kayla Montgomery, 18, collapses every time she crosses the finish line, said Lindsay Crouse in The New York Times. The North Carolina high school student was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago, but has defied medical expectations to become one of the fastest young distance runners in the country. Her disease actually might play a part in her athletic success. Montgomery’s MS blocks nerve signals from her legs to her brain, allowing her to run faster than other runners because she doesn’t feel pain. When Montgomery’s legs go numb, she can keep moving forward almost on autopilot. But when she reaches the finish line and stops running, she just collapses. “When I finish, it feels like there’s nothing underneath me, and I fall”—normally into her waiting coach’s arms. If she tumbles midrace, it’s a different story. At a cross-country meet last year, she clipped the heel of another runner and crashed, unable to get back up. Furious that other competitors were sprinting by, she pulled herself up on a fence post and cruised into 10th place. “Now I know I can do it,” says Montgomery, who recently won the state title in the 3,200 meters. “It may take a little while, but if I fall, I know I can get up.”

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