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My First (and maybe only) Half Marathon?

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  • My First (and maybe only) Half Marathon?

    Let me start this by saying that I don't run unless I'm being chased. But I do like to walk and hike. I was diagnosed with MS in March of 2010, although my first symptoms had appeared about 10 years earlier (it turns out that hindsight is 20/20, even for the neurologists).

    One of the symptoms that appeared not long before I was diagnosed was foot drop, after about 30-45 minutes of exercise. It's not awful, but it's annoying. I swim too, and foot drop isn't really an issue in the pool. I'm not an ultra-athlete, but I do try to get regular exercise for all of the physical and cognitive benefits it offers.

    I started on Copaxone after my diagnosis, but it didn't work for me (new, active lesions; new MS symptoms and injection site reactions). In February 2011, I switched to Gilenya, which has worked for me so far.

    I'm not the "New Year's Resolution" kind of person, but I do set goals for the year. In 2011, I had "walk a half-marathon" as one of my potential goals, but I didn't get to it. I was toying with the idea for 2012 when a friend asked if I wanted to run a half marathon with her that was taking place where I live, in March 2012. I thought that if I were going to do one, March would be a good time (train when it's cool). But I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it. Would the foot drop be too much and make it impossible for me to cover that distance? There's only 1 way to find out.

    I had discovered a few things that seemed to help me. Being cool definitely helped. Drinking small amounts of water frequently helps me feel less tired. My neurologist thinks it may be because it helps cool me from the inside, but isn't sure. Stopping and resting for a minute or so periodically along the way has also helped in the past when hiking or snowshoeing. And those two tend to go together, because if I drink lots of water along the way, I usually have to stop for a bathroom break, which gets me the rest.

    I went online and found a training program to walk a half marathon and I plotted it out on the calendar. I discovered that I could keep walking even after the foot drop kicked in. It tends to make my shoulder and hip more sore on that side (I think I use the whole side of my body to lift my foot), but it wasn't unbearable. My speed isn't great, but I downloaded lots of podcasts (This American Life, The Moth, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, etc.) and tried to walk in pretty locations when I got to the longer walks. My longest training walk was a full 13.1 miles. I know that most half marathon training programs stop at 12 miles, but I wanted to do the whole thing during training, just in case I woke up sick on race day. My time was getting a bit faster as I trained, especially on the shorter walks.

    I made it through my training and got to "race day." It was cold (yay). There were over 6,500 people in the race, the vast majority of them much faster than me, but that's okay. My time started out really good and kept going pretty well. I alternated between music and podcasts to keep me going. Watching the other people in the race and those cheering us along the way was fun. The first few miles were great, the middle miles were boring, mile 12 was great, the final mile was a bit long. But I made it - it took me just under 3.5 hours, which was almost 15 minutes better than when I did it during training.

    It felt good to finish. Really, it felt like I put MS back in its place. I know it will rear its ugly head again at some point and put me back in my place. But it didn't stop me from doing this - MS and I reached a truce, at least for awhile.

    Will I ever do another half marathon? Probably not - walking for 3 1/2 hours can get pretty boring. And honestly, I prefer to swim over walking. But now I know that I can.

    I wanted to post this because when I found this website a few months after being diagnosed, I remember reading the stories of others with MS who managed to keep being active. It was so much more encouraging than many of the other MS forums I'd encountered. So as a thank you to Dave and the others who share on this board, I posted my story. I hope it will help others know that you can stay active and come to a truce with your MS.

  • #2
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write your experience up. It always makes my day to read about another MSer's accomplishments. I loved your story. And congratulations on making it!!!