By: Dustin Diehl
Christina Kyle was 19 years old when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.“It was 11 years ago,” she says. “I thought, ‘OK, it will go away, I can take pills.” Unfortunately, it was a severe case of the gastrointestinal disease, one that necessitated major surgeries in 2009 and 2010. “It was four years ago that I was first hospitalized,” she remembers. “It was then that I realized I needed to do something about it.
On a mission to become an active member in the fight for a cure, Christina found Team Challenge, an endurance training and fundraising program dedicated to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. “The best part of Team Challenge is the camaraderie and the friends I’ve met. The whole system is like a little family.” And it’s about more than just the physical training. “We always check in on each other; there’s a lot of empathy. We’re all in it for the same reason – to find a cure, whether you suffer from the disease yourself, or it’s a friend or family member.”
Her journey with Team Challenge led her to the Big Island of Hawaii and Kona, for the 2011 Kona Marathon. “It was gorgeous!” she recalls. “It’s a cute, quiet little island; very mellow. And running along the course is like nothing you’ve ever experienced.” Kona’s aloha spirit would entice Christina to return a year later.
However, Christina’s condition required another surgery, her fourth major operation, preventing her from participating in the 2012 marathon. But that didn’t stop her from revisiting Kona. For her, it wasn’t solely about the running experience. It was about supporting her team and raising money for the cause. “I was too sick to run, but I was there for my team.”
With 2013 marking the 20th anniversary of the Kona Marathon, Christina is not only returning to the “cute, quiet little island,” she’s also packing up her life in Los Angeles, California and moving to Oahu. “I fell in love with the people, the culture, the lifestyle,” she says of her decision. “Having Crohn’s in LA is a lot of stress, which is a trigger. I like the healthiness of the island. I’ve traveled all over the world and never found a place I could live until I went to Oahu.”
Luckily, her account management job had an opening, allowing her to make the transition. “It’s a great company and they make amazing matching donations for my goals.” In addition to her company, Christina feels blessed to have the support of great family, friends, doctors and coworkers, 13 of whom are making the trek to Kona this year to show their support.
In the midst of training, recovering and packing, Christina still has time to compile her Kona 2013 wish list. “Lying on the beach or by the pool with a Mai Tai,” she laughs. “And I have to dive with the manta rays – really looking forward to that!” The new headquarter hotel for the Kona Marathon, the renewed Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay, offers just these experiences. But the most important goal on her list: “Even if I have to crawl across the finish line, I will finish!”
It’s this determination and commitment to positivity that makes Christina such an inspiring advocate for Team Challenge. When asked what advice she would give to those considering Team Challenge and the 13.1-mile half marathon, Christina says, “Do it. People think they can’t run 13 miles – it doesn’t matter. Team Challenge will make sure you cross the finish line, whether you’re walking or running. Don’t be scared. It’ll be the best decision you will ever make.”
Her hope is that others will find the strength to join, take action and make a difference. “I believe we will find a cure in my lifetime…and I want to be a part of it.”
To join the Greater Los Angeles/Orange County Team Challenge chapter, contact Jessica Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-694-3343, or visit http://ccteamchallenge.force.com/ for more information about your local chapter.