Running helps resident leave illness behind

Mark Mogensen credits his distance race training with keeping his Crohn's disease symptoms at bay.
Mark Mogensen credits his distance race training with keeping his Crohn's disease symptoms at bay.

When Trumbull resident Mark Mogensen was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2012, he turned to an non-traditional treatment for the painful condition marked by inflammation of the digestive tract: Distance running.

“A family friend had been diagnosed, and he said that running had made the symptoms less frequent,” Mogensen, 34, said. “Initially I was like, ‘I don’t quite get that,’ because you would think running is the absolute last thing you would ever consider.”

Mogensen’s gastroenterologist was also skeptical, but encouraged him to give it a try.

“Medically speaking, inflammation shouldn’t be affected by exercise,” Mogensen said. “But the other factors like increased metabolism, lower BMI and better overall health can be positives.”

Mogensen said he started slow, literally and figuratively.

“With two young kids, I couldn’t even run outside, I got a treadmill and just went slow and steady,” Mogensen said. “I had been active and played some sports up until high school, but I hadn’t even run one mile since freshman year.”

But after a few months of just running for the sake of running, Mogensen began to pick up the pace.

“After the first few runs, I was like, ‘This isn’t so bad,’” he said. “It was a bit boring, but then I began to push and try to improve, and it became more fun.”

Four years ago, Mogensen said his sister suggested the 2014 Hartford Half Marathon as a family event, and he picked up his training regimen even more.

Now, five years later, the Hartford Marathon Foundation has named him to the 2018 Aiello Inspiration Team, a small group of runners selected to share their reasons for stepping up to the starting line Oct. 13 in Bushnell Park.

“Race day reminds Mark that his diagnosis does not define him,” said marathon spokesman Samantha MacAvoy, “He stays healthy and motivated through running.

The best part, Mogensen said, is that his training regimen has helped him drop 22 pounds from his 5’8” frame, down to a lean 138 pounds, and has helped keep the painful flare-ups at bay. Running also has become a family activity.

“The kids are old enough now that they can run, and they have started doing 5Ks at the events,” he said. “They’re getting interested in racing. It’s a way for us all to stay active and healthy.”