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💥Trail Gangsta of the Month (April '23) 💥 Mehgin Lawrence on Running with Chronic, Invisible Illness💥

Name: Mehgin Lawrence 

Age: 33

Current Residence: Davenport, Iowa

Occupation: Steel Sales

1. How did your running journey start? 

In 7th grade we had to run a lap around the track at the beginning of PE everyday. Once a month we did a timed mile. Instead of choosing to hate running and complain about it like a lot of other girls my age, I got it done and was halfway decent at it.

The next year I learned about and joined the cross country team and the rest is history. Most years we didn’t have enough runners at my high school for a team score so we were just out there running, not the best not the worst, but had heart. And I’m still running for fun with all the heart and also questioning my sanity because who does this?! 

2. You describe your chronic illness as “invisible.” What do you mean by this and how does it make it different from other illnesses in regards to your daily functioning?

That’s such a big question and I could go on and on! Invisible illnesses/disabilities are ones that to put it simply can’t be seen. For perspective, I have chronic migraine, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and an undiagnosed illness we've been trying to piece together for years. All of my illnesses cause me an immense amount of pain that I just have to deal with, pain that can’t be seen from an outward presenting injury.

I can’t and wouldn’t dream of speaking on behalf of others but in my experience if I have a cold or a “classic” injury of sorts I know the general trajectory of tha. However, with my illnesses, I can and have been sidelined randomly. I’ll be on top of the world, can crank out a comfortable 15 miler and the next day can’t even get out of bed without my husband’s help. I was always afraid of going farther or faster because I could break myself down or cause a flareup, but I can’t live that way either.

It’s hard to explain to people that I can go run a marathon or run for two hours in the woods, but today I’m barely functional because my whole body is on fire, my head is in a vice or I just really want to lay in bed. Then because I’m a mentor in my running club, I have a fear of letting people down if I’m having a “bad day.” This then also melds into the whole mental health aspect, which is 100% an invisible illness. Do I step back and say I need a break because I’m not effective or do I push through because none of this is “real” because I’m not injured?  It’s a balancing act I live with in my home life, professional life, and in training. 

3. What advice would you give to other runners with chronic illnesses who are struggling to complete training or feel that their goal is impossible?  

Be gentle with yourself and don’t forget to rest. But when rest is done, move again! It’s powerful and therapeutic. Also, make sure you have at least one person in your life who relates to you or is ultra supportive of your journey,  especially on the days it does feel the hardest. 

4. What do you love about the Chicago running scene/community?

I live a couple hours away so I don’t know much of the Chicago community, when I visited for the marathon last fall it was great. The city turns out! I could really tell you about the Quad Cities though! That’s where it’s at. We have roadie running clubs and trail groups! Shout out to my peeps Fleet Feet Davenport, QCTur(d)s, and Trail Sisters Quad Cities! 

Race directors in our area put on quality events. It's a solid area that I think is sometimes overlooked but maybe that’s our best kept secret. I spent so many years running alone then a few years ago started running with these clubs and it’s opened up so many doors. I get to help people on their running journeys and have made so many friends. 

5. How does your body respond differently to running on roads vs trails? 

Trails by far are way less impactful on my body because of the type of surface and type of running, though I think one of my buddies would beg to differ. Trails hit different - literally when you fall like I do! Pro tip: when pacing a friend during their 100, make sure you take care of yourself too and don’t scan the ground in front of only them all night. All that said I do love a good shoe rotation and all the recovery tools to keep myself in tip top shape. 

6. What are your long term race goals?

Long long term I wanna be like Betty Lindberg still going at 98! I let go of the fear I had that my body would fail me and I’m running the Hennepin 50 miler this October. My longest distance to date. I have the worst friends who are already telling me to go 100 next. My husband who is not a runner but my biggest supporter also said I have a 100 miler in me. We’ll see - that’s a lot! Let’s get through 50 first.


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