But what the 18-year-old charitably calls “floating” is actually the symptom of a much more serious problem. Three years ago, the high school student and distance runner from Winston-Salem, N.C., was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disorder in which disrupted nerve signals can cause a number of issues, including numbness.
The diagnosis wasn’t enough to stop her from running, though. If anything, it has strengthened her resolve. In the past four years, she’s dropped eight minutes from her time, going undefeated in North Carolina and becoming one of the fastest distance runners in the country, NBC’s “Today” reports.
“When I finish, it feels like there’s nothing underneath me,” Montgomery explained to the New York Times. “I start out feeling normal and then my legs gradually go numb. I’ve trained myself to think about other things while I race, to get through. But when I break the motion, I can’t control them and I fall.”
Per WGHP, that means Montgomery collapses at the end of every race, hopefully falling into her coach’s arms, though she’s been known to hit the ground as well, brought down by her own momentum.
Undaunted, Montgomery always gets back up, ready to run again. Her neurologist, Dr. Lucie Lauve, told “Today” the MS hasn’t benefited her physically in any way. Instead, she attributes the teen’s remarkable accomplishments to “mental edge.”
But for Montgomery, keeping up the pace wasn’t always easy.
“Honestly, I almost quit,” she acknowledged to WXII. “It’s really hard and I was tired of having to try more than other people and to deal with the different symptoms. But I decided to try and keep with it, and I’m really happy I did.”
The New York Times reports Montgomery will compete in the 5,000 meter race on March 14 at the national indoor track championships in New York. She’s aiming for a sub-17-minute time.
Watch the full “Today” segment, below: