The Lighthouse Fitness Project is an opportunity to share and grow the vision, mission and focus of the Platte River Fitness Series through the stories and photographs of 10 individuals who have generously agreed to let us share their journey to wellness and the “Lighthouses” who helped guide them. Click here for more posts from the Lighthouse project.

Kelly Crymble

Kelly Crymble

Kelly Crymble was the 2012 Platte River Fitness Series Women's Overall Champion. She bested more than 1,000 "sole sisters" to win the championship. The PRFS is a year-long competition — so winning takes determination and devotion. Kelly is the epitome of both of those.

Kelly Crymble was the 2012 Platte River Fitness Series Women's Overall Champion. She bested more than 1,000 "sole sisters" to win the championship. The PRFS is a year-long competition — so winning takes determination and devotion. Kelly is the epitome of both of those.

Sometimes our journey to wellness begins once we realize that our lifestyle choices are limiting our lives. Kelly Crymble's story is different. As the fifth story in our Lighthouse Fitness Project, the "stormy seas" she had to navigate to a healthy life were hers from birth. It would be difficult to find enough adjectives to describe Kelly's tenacity and perseverance. Most of all, words fall short when trying to describe the grace and pure decency with which she lives and runs. This is Kelly's amazing story.

"I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at 18 months of age,” Kelly says. “My parents had no idea what was wrong, but my knees would swell and turn red and hot. I would slap at them and cry. Of course, at that age, I had no way to tell them what was wrong. After tests were performed, it was determined that I had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), an autoimmune disease that affects and damages the joints. My mom and dad had no idea what that would come to mean. Even with this diagnosis, I have always considered myself one of the lucky ones, especially after my regular visits to Denver's Children's Hospital. Many of the kids with JRA I met there were confined to wheelchairs. While I had limitations, I was able to maintain mobility. The entirety of my childhood centered around physical therapy and medications.

Kelly Crymble

Kelly Crymble

“I underwent two surgeries on my jaw and had my wrist fused with bone from my hip and a metal plate. I made the best of what I had, no matter the situation, but athletics were not ever in the picture for me. In fact, I never even allowed myself to dream about athletics because it was not part of my reality. Through this journey, I have learned that dreams can, and in fact, do become reality. You cannot ever stop believing in your dreams. I have been on many, many medications throughout my life to treat and manage my disease, and spent nearly 10 years on a steroid called Prednisone. Prednisone is a wonder drug in some regards, but comes with serious side effects, one of which is weight gain and an increase in body fat (puffiness).

“Physical therapy was continuous, torturous, and I despised it. I had to wear braces constantly on my legs which resulted in teasing and name calling from my peers. My parents and family were steadfast. I have a pair of baby shoes from my youth with slits in the back of the shoes. My parents had to put the shoes on me at bedtime and tie my feet together. It was as painful for them as it was for me.

“I recall, now, a trip with my husband Jeff and daughter Kelsey to Arizona in which I could barely walk off the plane. It was a terrible experience, but it served as a turning point. The next week, I was in my doctor's office for a hard dose of reality. Actually, I was seeking a hard dose of a 'new' reality. It was time to make some changes in my life. I didn't ask to be born with JRA, but I didn't have to become a slave to it either. The first change was medication. I was taken completely off of Prednisone and now give myself weekly injections of a medication called Enbrel. I remember sitting in his office and crying at the very thought of giving myself a weekly shot. Now, it is just a simple part of my routine.

“The second change was physical activity. I started running with the encouragement of my daughter, Kelsey. I recall when one mile felt like 20. I felt so accomplished to complete my first mile, even though it took me 15 minutes to do so. Soon, however, one mile became two, two became three and on and on. I was moving forward. Miraculously, I felt better! I started losing weight and had less stiffness each morning. No longer just a 'hobby', I was making fitness my lifestyle.

Kelly Crymble

Kelly Crymble

“Each year, I set new goals and I must admit, I hit some bumps along the way each year. I call them 'speed bumps' because I don't believe any of us truly have road blocks. I have learned that it is okay to fail. It is okay to struggle. Sometimes, I have found, it is how we learn the most about ourselves. My journey now includes continual goals for my physical well-being but more importantly, I am seeking opportunities to share the gift and blessing of physical activity with others. When I look at who I was and who I am now, I cannot help but share the joy with others. I was asked how the Platte River Fitness Series impacted me...I cannot even begin. The people have become family to me. I adore them and enjoy watching each of them grow and reach for their own goals."

When asked to share her "fitness lighthouses,” an obvious person that helped Kelly get started on her way would be her daughter, Kelsey. That suggestion to run changed everything. A second lighthouse would be her physician. He worked with Kelly to help her move beyond her disease. Kelly also will tell you that two of her greatest friends have been guiding lights, constant support, and fellow travelers on the journey to fitness, Mary and Amber Pierce. The most significant "lighthouse" in Kelly's life was her mom.

"She never saw me race, but awaited a phone call every time I did. When I ran the Destin 50 in Florida, I just knew she would be waiting, impatiently, for an update."

Kelly did not know that her mom was very ill when she ran the sands of Florida, because her mom didn't want to burden her. Less than a month later, Kelly's mom past away. "I carry her picture in my race belt for every race. She is with me always."

Kelly's goals for 2014 were grand. She competed and placed in the Destin 50, a well-known race on the beach in Florida. She also decided to compete in the Xterra Trail Race Challenge, reflecting a newly-found passion for trail racing. She competed in the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Run (21K) and the Pagossa Springs trail race, rocky, steep and single track. She fell twice but kept moving forward. The final race was her toughest. A 19K course that took her up climbs of 1,500 feet to 9,200 feet in elevation. Because of her performances, she qualified the the Xterra National Championships in Utah recently where she finished 4th.

Kelly herself is a lighthouse. Athletes look at what she has moved beyond and have taken her hope-filled, determined outlook as their own. She continues to race in the Series, and is part of the team of athletes who track the points for the PRFS. She has a gentle tenacity, but most of all, she is filled with grace, grace for how far she has moved beyond her limits, and grace in helping others do the same.

Comment