Devon Mundy, Second Year, Laurier Golden Hawks Track & Field
Autoimmune diseases are funny. I don't say this with a twinge of humour in my voice, or because I believe them to be, I say it because they create the toughest competition you've ever faced in your career; yourself.
I have never been the type of athlete that draws a lot of attention to himself, and coming out of high school, I never dreamt that I would have an opportunity to run again competitively, but here I am. I am 19 years old, I am a middle-distance runner for Wilfrid Laurier University, and for the greater part of my adolescence, I have been suffering from autoimmune related health issues.
When it comes to diseases like these, receiving a formal and direct diagnosis is very difficult and can take decades for some people. When I was 14-years old, I was told I had Enthesitis-related arthritis and was put on a variety of medication that, in the long run, yielded poor results. We went back to the drawing board and attempted different medications. Still no results. This pattern went on for some time.
Eventually the conclusion was made that the major source of my plight for good health was gastrointestinal, and most fingers pointed towards Crohn's disease. I won't dive into the details of this, but this link elaborates more on the disease itself.
"…I returned to the only outlet that had worked for me in the past – running."
I began several medications that, while harsh in nature, came with a promise of results. These results never came, and in the summer between my first and second years at Laurier, I made the decision to come off all medications due to the mental and cognitive lingering side effects. It was soon after this that I returned to the only outlet that had worked for me in the past – running.
When I'm physical, and many others suffering from similar diseases can attest to this, my side effects become more manageable. When this occurs, a feeling of hope returns to your body and the hurdles of everyday life appear to be closer to the ground.
"It's hard to admit to your peers that you're hurting…"
This isn't to say, all is perfect. Track is a demanding sport, and the competition at the university level makes my head spin. Frankly, I will never post ultra-competitive times in relation to those I compete against. I often have to take several minutes between practice sets in Waterloo's indoor track's washroom to compose myself before returning to my teammates. It's hard to admit to your peers that you're hurting, and it's even harder to take the time to explain why you are.
My greatest worry is that people may feel pity for me – please don't. Because even though I may be in complete agony at the end of some races or runs, people have it worse than me. Some individuals struggle with most daily tasks and still find the strength to carry on and give so much back to society. It is for these people, that I push my body harder than I admittedly should. I don't feel disheartened when I run, leaving everything on the track, and still finish in the bottom of the pile. I feel proud. The hardest competition I will ever face will be my own body, and every time I run, it is the only competition who I have to beat, and I'll never stop trying to outrun myself.
I also would like to thank my family for their tremendous support, and sacrifices they made for me growing up. My coach, Ian Clancy, has also given me an opportunity that I never dreamt I'd have. I will always be grateful for those who have helped me throughout my life, I am so truly lucky and blessed.