Kayla Montgomery is an 18-year-old distance runner who won the North Carolina state title last month and whose time (10 minutes, 43 seconds to run the 3,200 meters) ranks her among the nation's elite in her age group. The reason she is featured in the New York Times, however, is because Kayla has accomplished all that despite a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis three years ago. In fact, the disease may have actually helped her as a runner. The Times explains: Because MS "blocks nerve signals from Montgomery's legs to her brain, particularly as her body temperature increases, she can move at steady speeds that cause other runners pain she cannot sense..."
Kayla can continue running even as her legs go numb, but the flip side is that she will stumble and fall once she loses momentum or stops, explains the Winston-Salem Journal in an earlier profile. Which is why teammates or a coach are always there to catch her at the finish line. "When I finish, it feels like there's nothing underneath me," says Kayla, who has accepted a scholarship to Tennessee's Lipscomb University in the fall. Unfair advantage? Maybe, but "it's beautiful to watch her run," says her coach. The full Times profile quotes a doctor who suggests it might be dangerous for a runner to be oblivious to pain.