Making up for lost time
R-S Central’s Lauren Revis was crowned as the fastest female distance runner in the county a little over a month ago when she was the first girl to cross the finish line at the County Championship meet at Central.
Revis’ time of 24:21 was made more impressive by the fact that she is only a 14-year-old freshman. Even more staggering than her age, she has been battling juvenile arthritis since she was an infant.
Revis’ particular arthritis attacks four or fewer joints, but those four just happen to be her knees and ankles. On top of the joint issues, the arthritis also attacks Lauren’s vision. Her current medication treats both symptoms.
Revis makes the trip to Duke University Medical Center every three months for check-ups even though the arthritis has been in remission since she was 11.
Lauren’s success has been overwhelming for her mother, Amy, who never expected her daughter to be a decorated distance runner.
“When I called the coach to ask how she was doing and he said she’s the No. 1 girl I got kind of misty-eyed,” Amy said. “When you’re told your one-year-old has arthritis you don’t picture her being all-conference or county champion. It was emotional for us.”
Lauren was equally shocked by her success.
“When I joined cross country at the beggining of the year I thought I was going to be the slowest one,” Lauren said with a chuckle.
Even with the severity of the condition, Lauren is quick to downplay its effect on her running.
“It hasn’t really been that much of a trouble because it’s been in remission for so long,” Lauren said. “I just have to really strech my legs a lot and have a ton of doctors visits.”
The doctor visits assure Lauren and her mother that the arthritis is still in remission. Even the doctors are amazed at how well Lauren has managed the condition.
“We go to Duke about every three months and the doctors told her that you would never know she has arthritis because she looks so good,” Amy joked. “She gets a shot from me every Friday. She dreads that sometimes but I tell her that at least the medications work for her unlike so many other kids that it doesn’t work for.”
Lauren is all-too familiar with the weekly shots.
“I’ve had to have the weekly shots since I was 4, and they aren’t very fun,” Lauren said. “Sometimes they make me sick, not becasue of the medicine, but because of the actual thought of it.”
The mere thought of a child who could barely walk for years becoming an all-conference distance runner is enough to amaze anyone, especially a parent who has spent years helping her child manage such a painful condition.
“When your child has arthritis, rheumatologists would rather them be full-time swimmers, and she does like swimming, but she really enjoys running,” Amy said. She’s never actually trained until she joined the cross country team. She said she doesn’t understand why anyone would run on a track when they can run in the woods.”
Lauren however, has had the itch to run since her even younger days.
“When I was in elementary school I always thought it was fun to race people. I would always wear tennis shoes in case someone asked to race,” Lauren said with a smile. “I guess since the first two years of my life I couldn’t really walk it was like I was making up for it.”
“I think it’s shaped her personality,” Amy added. “She’s very competitive and very tough. Nothing much phases her.”
Even with such a tough and resilient child, a mother can’t help but worry.
“She’s always asking if my legs feel stiff in the morning and if I ever complain about my ankle hurting it could be something else but she’s always worried it could be the arthritis,” Lauren said of her mother.
“You do worry if they would run 50 miles a week but that isn’t the case. She really wants to keep it up. And the thing with arthritis is that exercise is key to keeping it away,” Amy added.
Lauren has no plans of slowing down either.
“I just want to get better,” she said. “I’m going to start running as often as I can to get better. I mapped out a course at my house that I run.”
It’s hard to imagine how Lauren could continue to be an even stronger runner, and even harder to imagine her mother being any more proud.
“Any parent is proud of their child regardless of where they finish but it is true that I take a real special satisfaction in her being successful knowing it was such a long journey to get her here,” Amy said.
With the condition being in remission for years there is always the concern that it could resurface and wreak havoc on Lauren’s legs, but she isn’t too concerned about that.
“I’m just on so much medicine I don’t see how it’s possible,” Lauren said shaking her head.