Randy Northcote on a quest to raise awareness for Crohn’s Disease at Sunday’s Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon.
Written by: Duncan Larkin
For many people, Christmas Eve is a day of excitement and pleasant anticipation—a cherished time of the year when families celebrate the holiday season together. But the Christmas Eve of 1997 was hardly that kind of experience for San Diego resident Randy Northcote. On that day, his colon perforated. He was rushed to the emergency room and ultimately hospitalized for several weeks. At that time, Randy was only 22 years old.
Doctors told Randy that he had nearly died from two conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease that attacks the digestive system causing inflammation, bleeding, and severe pain, while ulcerative colitis is the disease of the intestine. Over 1.4 million Americans suffer from one or both of these medical conditions.
There is no cure for either of them.
Thanks to two successful emergency surgeries and a daily medicinal regimen, Randy persevered and has managed to live as close to a normal life as possible for the past decade. “My experience has definitely taught me to enjoy each and every day and never take life or health for granted,” he says.
With memories of his traumatic experience 13 years ago always at the top of his mind, Randy has committed to run the Zappos.com Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on Sunday. After watching a fellow colleague with his same condition complete last year’s race, Randy was motivated to give the half marathon a shot. He recently joined Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s (CCFA) half-marathon training program, Team Challenge.
Taking part in large weekend races is a new concept to Randy. His longest run in the past had been along the beach or up in the mountains where he goes to trout fish. Under the guidance of Team Challenge’s coaches, Randy has been walking four days a week for the past 14 weeks. “Walking is very therapeutic and allows me to be outdoors in a stress-free environment,” he admits. Randy meets with members of Team Challenge San Diego every Wednesday night and Saturday morning at the beach—a place Randy describes as “some of the most beautiful coastline in Southern California.”
Living with the disease for nearly 20 years has had some lasting effects on Randy after his training walks. “I often have sore and achy joints in the mornings but I have not let this slow me down,” he admits. However, three weeks ago, Randy completed his longest walk, which was 12 miles. “I am happy to say that I felt great after finishing that walk,“ he says with a smile on his face. Since his half-marathon training has been going so well, Randy is contemplating tackling a condensed triathlon and more than likely will compete in another half marathon in the future to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
Though this weekend’s event is billed as a race, Randy is not interested in his finishing time; he just wants to raise awareness about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. “I meet so many people, especially kids, that are afraid to speak openly about their disease,” he says. Besides training to complete this weekend’s Las Vegas race, Randy has been doing more than his fair share of fundraising for the foundation. Even before his training started in September, Randy had already surpassed Team Challenge’s $4,000 minimum. A large portion of these donations came from seniors at the mobile home park where he works as an assistant manager. Some members of the community encouraged Randy to keep up his training and even organized a golf tournament to help him raise money for the CCFA foundation.
When not training or working, Randy spends his time volunteering at Crohn’s and Colitis foundation’s Camp Oasis program. He also volunteers at The Painted Turtle Camp, one of Paul Newman’s “Hole in the Wall” camps. When you talk with Randy, you can tell he is passionate about finding a cure for these diseases. He wants to do his part doing to raise awareness.
“We need to reduce the stigma associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” he says. “We need to ensure that future generations have better therapies and ultimately a cure. It’s my hope that with Team Challenge we can move the needle forward and get closer to reaching this goal.”
Duncan Larkin is a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first book, Oxygen Debt, was recently released.