What’s the secret to success? Any sport’s top coach will tell you it lies in an athlete’s attitude. A positive mindset is what separates the good from the great.
Plenty of competitors have proven this notion true in the past, but it seems 18-year-old Kayla Montgomery, a cross-country runner at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina is the most notable athlete to recently exemplify the idea.
When Montgomery was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis—an autoimmune illness that causes damage to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord—about three years ago, she was one of the slower members of Mount Tabor’s cross-country team. Today, she’s one of the top-ranked runners in the country and her many extraordinary accomplishments have not gone unnoticed.
She was first profiled by a local North Carolina news station in 2012, but as of late she’s been recognized by everyone from the New York Times to NPR after winning the North Carolina State title in the 3,200 meters last month.
Because of her condition, Montgomery’s legs go numb while she runs but once she stops she cannot control them.
“I actually don’t notice it while I run, because I zone out and just focus on the race ahead of me,” Montgomery told WXII Channel 12. “But as soon as I stop running I collapse because I’ve lost complete feeling from the waist down.”
Montgomery has noted that it almost feels like she’s floating when she runs, but she told the New York Times that once she stops moving it feels like there’s nothing underneath her.
Among the many publications to have recently highlighted her story, Montgomery is featured in the most recent issue of Runner’s World Magazine. “Running helps me stay sane and helps me not dwell on worst-case scenarios like being paralyzed. It takes a lot of focus to get through races, as my legs have no feeling,” she told the magazine.
Inspiring runners and athletes of all types across the world, on a recent segment of TODAY she said: “Instead of letting it stop me from running I used it to motivate me to break records.”
Montgomery will compete in the New Balance Nationals indoor track championships at the Armory Track in New York this week.