In July 2016, I ran my first half marathon to mark my 13th year living with multiple sclerosis. I ran that run for me to prove to myself that I could do something that I never thought I could do, especially living with MS.
I just ran my second half marathon on July 1st and this year, I focused on 13 reasons why I ran those 13.1 miles:
1. To set an example for my children. It meant the world to me to see their faces waiting for me at the finish line. I loved my five-year old’s reaction: “Mom! That was awesome! Can we go home now?!” Yeah, they might not get it completely at this point but hopefully, they will understand some day.
2. For my husband. I’m so lucky to have someone who understands me. He always listens and truly hears me, reads my mind to the point that it really freaks me out, and is supportive in all that I do. Much to his chagrin, I refer to him as my “armchair training partner.” He was waiting for me at the finish line showing his support and wearing his WalkMS t-shirt.
3. For my sister and my parents. My family has been there for me from the very beginning and I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am today without the incredible support and love that they show me constantly.
4. To raise awareness for multiple sclerosis. When I run, I often wear my “MS Warrior” t-shirt to show what someone with MS can look like. People have misconceptions about what it means to live with MS. Sometimes our symptoms are invisible to the naked eye but they are real and they are there. My t-shirt has often brought up discussions with others who have a friend or relative living with MS, or they are just curious and want to know more.
5. For those newly-diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I want to give hope and comfort to those newly-diagnosed. I will never forget that time in my life and I wish no one had to go through it. Just know that MS doesn’t have to dictate your life. You are in charge!
6. For the health care practitioners and researchers who dedicate their professions to improving the lives of those of us living with MS. I would love to hug every one of you and to thank you for all that you do. You are truly improving the lives of us living with MS. We have come a long way and MS is not the disease it used to be thanks in large part to your efforts.
7. For those people who said that MS took their ability to run. I hate hearing that and I don’t share my story to make anyone feel worse if they can’t run anymore. For me, I want to see other people with MS doing better than me. To me, it is a collective win if someone with MS is doing something out of their comfort zone, or out of the realm of public perception of what it means to live with MS. Whatever we can do, we are all MS Warriors and we are all fighting this disease together.
8. For all MS Warriors. For everyone living with the disease each and every day, who fight it with amazing perseverance and true inner strength. The families and care partners are included within this group as well. They are fighting right next to us, and none of us would be able to do it without their support.
9. For those who lived with the disease before me, and who may not have had treatment options. I’m truly fortunate to have been diagnosed at a time when they are making great strides in medical research and treatment for MS. I was lucky to have access and to start on disease-modifying therapies shortly after I was diagnosed. I credit these medications as a big part of the reason why I’m doing so well today.
10. For my past. I say that the image of me with limited use of the left side of my body is always there with me on all of my runs. She motivates me to keep going because I remember all too well the feeling I had when I couldn’t move like I wanted to, and the thought that I wouldn’t be able to walk, let alone run, ever again.
11. For my future. I don’t know what is in store for me and I don’t know how long I can keep this going. For now, I can only do the best I can and hope that my efforts are going to aid me in whatever the future holds, and perhaps keep MS progression off for as long as possible.
12. For me. Ultimately, I’m doing this all for me. Despite having a specific training schedule to reach a specific distance, I’m training for my life. I’ve found that this activity works for me and helps me to stay as healthy as possible. It has helped to alleviate some of the symptoms I experience such as depression, mood swings, fatigue, and stress and anxiety. I will do it until I no longer can, and then I will find something new that I enjoy that keeps me active. I’ve made that commitment to myself and I choose to keep it.
13. To maintain hope for a cure. Since my diagnosis in 2003, I’ve seen huge leaps in treatment options and overall knowledge about multiple sclerosis. I will do my best each and every day, and have faith and hope that there will be a cure in my lifetime.
Finally, and I didn’t add this to the list because I don’t think my finishing times should matter but of course, I’m going to mention it. Being rather competitive with myself, I was trying not to focus on my time but it was constantly there in the back of my mind. I secretly had the goal of breaking the 2 hour mark. While I didn’t succeed in doing that, I did improve on my time from last year. In 2016, I finished in 2:01:12 and this year, in 2:00:39. I just missed my goal but I’m not worried about that. I’m just incredibly grateful that I was able to do it…again.
"That's the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is." - Kara Goucher