College Runner Doesn’t Let Ulcerative Colitis Slow Him Down

We all remember that old adage that sports are 90% mental and only 10% physical.

I remember thinking that every time I got done with baseball or soccer practice completely exhausted and barely able to climb the stairs to my bedroom. I don’t know where the expression comes from, but I do remember Yogi Berra butchering it and making it better at the same time.

The fact of the matter is we never turn our brains off, especially not when we’re engaging in physical activity. Distance runners know this lesson all too well. A young man by the name of Ben Saarel can tell you all about pushing past the physical, as reported in Flotrak.

He is an All-American track and cross country athlete, but he also happens to have ulcerative colitis.

In 2014, when Ben was nearing the end of his freshmen year on the track team at the University of Colorado Boulder, he was feeling excessively fatigued. He continued to run in practice and at meets, but he was worn out all day, every day. Amazingly, in March, he posted a personal record for a 5K (13:48, or a less than four-and-a-half minutes per mile pace).

However, just months later, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

Ben was able to work with his doctor to get treatment. He restricted his diet to help his digestive tract not become more inflamed. He has to restrict his fiber intake as well as anything with seeds and nuts. Unfortunately, these are good sources of protein and calories for athletes. Miraculously, he managed to get his condition under control and race in the NCAA Championships that same year.

Since diagnosis, he has posted three more personal records in the 1500m and 800m events. This includes a year when he was red-shirted (not eligible for accolades) because of other medical issues. He looks to professional distance runners for inspiration when adversity strikes. He believes that he can fight through the hard times just as well as any pro can. He relies on his mind to help him push through. But he also has to use his mind to tell him that it is time to listen to his body.

As Ben graduates, let’s hope that he can accomplish his dreams of staying active and building a life.

Click here to read the post on FloTrack about him.


Tell us who you look to for inspiration when you’re facing adversity.

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