Running With Chronic Illness



“Nausea” Pencil drawing by Malinda Ann Hill

I started running when I was 22. Over the last 18 years, I’ve run dozens of races and completed 7 marathons while living with chronic illness. I have gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying) which causes severe stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. There is no cure for this condition and only a few treatments available which offer temporary relief. After many years of failed treatments, hospitalizations and feeding tubes, I had a gastric neurostimulator (stomach pacemaker) implanted on March 3, 2011. While the pacemaker has provided some relief, my symptoms continue to be debilitating. I continue to run whenever possible even when I’m experiencing stomach pain and nausea. However, there are many days that I cannot run because of vomiting and fatigue.

I hadn’t run for weeks when I met Joan Benoit Samuelson at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Expo. During her talk, she kept repeating “run your own race” – inspiring words that I needed to hear at the time. It can be an emotional struggle when I want to run but my body won’t let me. It is especially difficult when I see my identical twin sister running consistently and surpassing her race goals.

I’ve learned that I cannot compare myself to my twin or any other runner. I cannot even compare myself to the runner I was before I got sick. My body has changed and my running has changed. I have become the “go with the flow” slow runner and that is the runner I am meant to be today. I am truly grateful for every step that I am able to run. I appreciate every moment when I run – that is why I run without expectations, without time goals, without music, without a Garmin, but always with gratitude.

On her photo, Joan Benoit Samuelson wrote “Wishing you a great run through life” and I am determined to do just that!


My twin and I dubbed ourselves “Twins Run in Our Family” since we are identical twins and opposite runners. We run together to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer in memory of Leah’s brother-in-law Michael who died of leukemia on March 17. 2003. We’ll run the Broad Street Run (May 6) Chicago Marathon (October 7) and Goofy’s Race & a Half Challenge (January 12 & 13).



Leah Connor and Malinda Ann Hill


Malinda, thanks so much for writing! I got to meet Malinda during the Princess half marathon weekend, she is so sweet! Be sure to stop by and say hello to her!

QOTD: Do you have a medical condition that makes running difficult or impossible? Would love to hear your story, you inspire me already!

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  1. Way to go, Malinda! I’m proud of you for running YOUR race.

  2. Thank you, Malinda, for sharing your story! Anyone that has to overcome injury or illness to run is a true inspiration to me! Way to keep a positive attitude, and I LOVE the shirts! It’s great that you also keep a sense of humor about it.

  3. Thanks! 🙂

  4. Bri Fortin says:

    This is an amazing story. I just started to run in the summer of 2011 and have signed up for some 5k races this year. I was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and was really worried about how it would effect my training. But since starting some medication to heal myself I have been doing a lot better and haven’t lost hope! This really inspired me!!! Thank you!!! 🙂

    • Hi Bri,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for sharing your story! Grateful that sharing my story could help inspire you – and you inspire me, too! 🙂
      Take care,

  5. Thank you for sharing your story Melinda! I have ulcerative colitis, which makes running difficult on some days. Your story is really inspiring and encourages me to keep going.

  6. Thanks Sarah for including my post in your Weekly Review in April! 🙂

Mentioned elsewhere:

  1. […] Sass features guest blogger Malinda Ann Hill from Twins Run In Our Family who shares her story of running with chronic illness.  This is an inspiring story and something I am all too familiar […]