Michelle Schmidt running

My name is Melissa Schmidt. I’m a Transition Specialist at Moraine Park Technical College, which means I’ll be helping students move from their GED/HSED into programs, and also helping dual credit high school students move into programs. I’m also encouraging and helping students who may have been part of a certificate program or technical diploma transition into an AAS degree. I offer that extra bit of time and attention that some students may require to navigate resources our College has to offer so that they may be successful.

Speaking of attention …

March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month, and this topic has a lot of personal meaning to me.

In fact, I’m soon going to be running 152 miles in six days (think six consecutive marathons!) for this important cause. Yes, 152 miles!

You’re probably wondering two things: “Why?” and “How!?”

Well, I’m here to tell you, and, I hope you’ll be inspired to help those battling MS in your own way, too!

The Why

My aunt Alice has MS and she was diagnosed in her 20’s. She is now in her 80’s and has lived with the disease for over 50 years. Through the MS Run the US relay journey I’ve been on the past few years (I’ll get into more specifics on the relay itself soon), I have also met many others with MS that I had no idea were living with the disease. Often the symptoms are very hidden or in a period of remission, so you may not be aware that someone even has multiple sclerosis.

I was very much talked into doing this relay by a good friend, Amy Van Dyke, who had participated in the relay for three years and had run across the entire state of Colorado. I would sometimes accompany her on some of her training runs, and she was convinced I could do it. I didn’t believe her, but decided to give it a try. As I said, my aunt has been living with MS for over 50 years, and I wanted to do something special in honor of her. I also really loved the idea that the relay has the bigger goal of raising awareness and dollars around the country for MS in a pretty impressive event.

I’ll also just add, for those unfamiliar, people should know that symptoms are different for every single person with an MS diagnosis. Just as nobody has the same fingerprints, no one has the same MS symptoms. They can range from shakiness to vertigo, to vision problems to something like hot flashes/ paroxysmal symptoms. Symptoms can come on suddenly and without warning, making the unpredictability of the disease one of its most debilitating qualities.

The How

So about this 152-mile run I’ll be doing …

MS Run the US, Inc. was founded in 2009 by Wisconsin native Ashley Schneider.  Inspired by her mother Jill Kumlien – who has lived with MS since 1980 – Ashley created MS Run the US, Inc., a 501(c)3 government approved charitable organization to raise national disease awareness, funds to further MS research, and to help those living with disability due to their MS symptoms.  All donation proceeds support research and MS disability programs through The National MS Society.

The relay is in its fourth year and goes from LA to NYC over four months starting April 10th, and I will kick off Segment 1. After I will run nearly six consecutive marathons, and then “pass the baton” on to another runner who will run from Barstow, CA to Las Vegas, Nevada, and so on. Each relay runner has committed to raising $10,000 for MS.  I will run my 152 miles over six days. In all, there are 18 relay runners spanning the country, and they will run with the support of a small crew that follows them.

I stay in a nice RV and we usually find great places to stay. My only job during that week is running and recovery, but I will post a lot of pictures on Google+ and Facebook to help raise awareness. I like to post about my day so that I remember details, and can share the experience with those interested.

Because so many people supported my segment, I also wear a special orange (the color for MS Awareness) tank-top, and will have the names of those who donated at least $100.00 printed on the back as a special thank you. On the front of the day’s tank-top, I have the MS Run the US logo and also that of a business that donated a little extra. I have 6 tank-tops and each day will be filled with completely different names and logos, so I look forward to being able to give recognition to those that gave so much support.

Some of the relay runners have MS themselves, or are running for their mom or dad who has MS. It’s an incredibly emotional experience for some of the relay runners as you have a lot of time to think, and it can be very exhausting. My segment’s elevation change is about 6,600 feet, so I will definitely experience some major hills.

So you may also be wondering how I trained for all this, right?

The training program had me working up to a half marathon, then a marathon, and then something like an ultra-marathon. I just concluded my most difficult training week: 78 miles, including two back-to-back 25-mile runs this past weekend on Saturday and Sunday. The idea is to get my body to accept the load of running that amount of time over consecutive days. It’s been a great winter for running, though, with the milder weather. I almost always run outside. I do complement my running with kettlebell training for strength maintenance and injury prevention. I also try to eat pretty well, juicing fruits and vegetables every other day at least and taking a good multivitamin supplement.

To learn more about multiple sclerosis, visit http://www.msruntheus.com/ms-facts/. If you’d like to support this great nonprofit, and my segment of the relay, you can go to my Firstgiving page which also talks a bit more about my why. You can find it here: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/melissa-schmidt-6/msruntheus2016relay. And if you’d like to learn more about Moraine Park Technical College and all the programs we offer here, visit morainepark.edu/programs. Thank you!

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Written by Melissa Schmidt