Running Against the Odds

Recently, I was clocking in a few more frequent flier miles and making my routine pass through Minneapolis airport. One of my guilty pleasures on these long connections is to catch up on my favorite magazines that I don’t get to read often. During this trip, I was reading through Runner’s World and came across an article about a runner whose resilience inspired me. I immediately knew that I wanted to share his story.

Collin Jarvis is a 24-year-old runner from San Diego, CA who started running at a young age. Collin Jarvis 5He continued to grow stronger and faster throughout his high school and college career, eventually winning the 3000m steeplechase PAC-12 title in 2012—which if anyone was questioning, is a pretty big deal!

A year afterwards,Collin was running an entirely different race than the grueling PAC-12 championship. In July 2013, he was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). This disease causes a diffuse inflammation of the mucosa, or lining, of the colon and rectum. UC leads to debilitating abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue along with other symptoms. These symptoms were frustrating, to say the least, in the midst of Collin’s busy training schedule. Collin’s disease progressed, and after trying to control the disease with various medications, Collin and his treatment team made the difficult decision of pursuing a colostomy (removal of his colon). 

After this surgery, he had a bag called an ileostomy placed in his lower right abdomen to collect his waste. Collin stated that at this time he felt like “a little, saggy grey skeleton”. He had “doubts that [he] would ever be able to come back and start running again.”  After seeking guidance from other runners with UC, he was surprised by the lack of competitive runners returning to the sport.  This didn’t deter him from starting up his training again, but rather inspired him further. He soon took on the challenge to train competitively once again. 

The road after this was not easy to say the least, but with much determination and support, Collin returned to University of California, Berkeley in the Spring of 2015 and competed on the Track & Field team. He has since been training for the Olympics in Rio! Is your mind blown yet?!

Collin Jarvis

Collin is a fighter that I hope will inspire our numerous little, big fighters who are battling UC themselves. Approximately 80,000 kids throughout the U.S. have UC. When diagnosed at a young age, the disease can be more severe and extensive. Because of the many complications, children deal with delayed puberty, growth failure, and nutritional deficiency. Many kids similar to Collin go through extensive medical treatments that require weeks or even months in the hospital. 

Collin’s story is one that can spark a new fire in our little, big fighters to keep strong and continue to pursue their dreams.  I will be rooting for Collin in his Olympic pursuit all the way from my Ohio home, and I hope that there will be many more athletes with UC that follow suite.

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Meredith Merkley

More about Meredith Merkley

Meredith Merkley was born in the mountains of Colorado, but moved to Ohio, New Mexico and then Arizona. She has a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Northern Arizona University. Afterwards, she packed her bags again and moved to Ohio where she graduated as a D.O. from the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is currently completing her second year of pediatric residency.