David Letky’s marathon journey with Crohn’s

David Letky at the Chicago Marathon

When David Letky crosses the finish line of the 128th Boston Marathon on April 15th, 2024, it will mark a huge milestone in his runner career, as well as his journey living with Crohn’s disease.
First diagnosed in his early twenties, the Sherbrooke, Quebec, native recalls that at the time he didn’t understand what it meant to have an autoimmune disorder. He didn’t know anything about Crohn’s disease and its treatments, and had no idea what would happen to him.

Today, as he prepares for the world’s oldest and best-known marathon, David feels he’s finally ready to talk openly about his disease. He hopes that by raising funds and awareness for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, he can help others have a different experience than he did when first diagnosed, and support research programs for the future. And as he lives his dream in Boston, he wants to show others that they too can find ways to manage their condition and achieve their goals.

David says, “People say running seems so easy for you, you have a natural talent, but they are not aware of the symptoms I need to manage with my autoimmune disorder.” Over the last 15 years, he’s found it isolating to not be open about his condition since he didn’t have anyone his age talk to about it. He now wants to share his experience and hopes he can encourage others to share their stories and raise awareness.

Though he was always active in team sports, David didn’t take up running until about eight years after he was first diagnosed with Crohn’s, and he came by it somewhat incidentally. When his father was diagnosed with cancer, David signed up for a 145 km fundraising walk over eight days across the Sahara Desert in Morocco. He needed to train, but as there was no way to replicate the desert walking conditions in Quebec, he started running to put his body to the physical test.

After that fundraising trip, David realized he needed to continue running. It wasn’t long before he fell in love with racing and with the feeling of just crossing a finish line regardless of where he placed. He participated in 5 and 10k races and then went on to longer distances, doing several half marathons before moving on to the full 42k in the fall of 2021.

It was at his third marathon in Toronto, a year later, when he started to realize that qualifying for Boston was a possibility as he ran the marathon in three hours and one minute. He had missed a half marathon in that city previously because of illness and the need for surgery on the day of the race, so when he returned, it was with a chip on his shoulder, and he wanted to make amends. He had something to prove, and that something ended up being that he could and should set his sights on Boston. David officially qualified for Boston by running two sub three-hour marathons in 30 days last fall in Rimouski (2 hours 55 minutes) and in Chicago (2 hours 59 minutes), making the cut in his age group.

The road to Boston hasn’t been a smooth one for David who says that sometimes just making it out of bed after a treatment is the biggest challenge of his day. Crohn’s symptoms, fatigue, and joint pain all mean that he is constantly adjusting training schedules and rest periods. He is grateful that the treatments have helped him continue to have an active and rewarding professional and personal life throughout the years. He hopes that talking openly about his condition will help to shine light on the challenges faced by people living with Crohn's or colitis.

David says that the biggest benefit of running and training has been learning to understand what his body is telling him. “It’s not about race times and performance, but about the journey of better understanding my condition through running.” 

He hopes that his story will share the message that if you have something close to your heart, try it out and see where it takes you, and always remember that whether they have a medical condition or a personal challenge that cannot be seen at first glance, “everyone has their own personal finish line.”

“My medical condition was never an excuse, nor an obstacle to achieve my professional and personal goals. My priority has always been to put one foot in front of the other, understanding how to live with the ups and downs of the disease and taking things further, without taking anything for granted. Running Boston is just the reward of this journey to balance out my life with an autoimmune condition that will never be an excuse for not trying and doing my best.” 



David Letky at the Chicago Marathon

David running the 2023 Chicago marathon

David Letky in the Sahara desert

David walking across the Sahara Desert

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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