To raise awareness and money for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, La Jolla resident Cheryl Hile will run seven marathons on seven continents in 12 months. Amazing in and of itself, the effort is made even more so because Hile was diagnosed with MS herself in 2006, and would be the first person in history to complete the feat.
“500 people worldwide have run seven marathons on seven continents, but nobody with MS has done it,” she said. “At least not publicly.”
But the trip around the world won’t be cheap, so Hile is in the fundraising stage to cover travel expenses, and any extra money raised will go to the MS Society. Running one marathon a month, with the occasional month in between to rest, she explained, “I start in September in Cape Town, South Africa; in October I go to Buenos Aires, Argentina; in November I rest; in December I go to Honolulu; in January I go to Antarctica; in February I go to Tokyo; in March I rest; in April I go to Austria; and I’ll finish in Christchurch, New Zealand in June.” To boot, the date scheduled for the New Zealand race is also Hile’s birthday.
To complete the collective 183.4 miles, Hile will rely on a flexible carbon-fiber support brace called an Ankle Foot Orthotic (AFO) as her MS has limited the use of her right side.
An auto-immune disease that attacks the central nervous system, symptoms of MS commonly affect one’s ability to move. Rick Griffin, on behalf of the National MS Society, explained, “Affecting more than 2.3 million people worldwide, MS is an unpredictable, often disabling neurological disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and the rest of the body. Symptoms vary from person to person and range from numbness and tingling, to walking difficulties, fatigue, dizziness, pain, depression, blindness and paralysis. … These symptoms might be permanent, or they might come and go.”
Already a marathon runner, Hile said she felt discouraged and depressed when she was diagnosed. “I started tripping and falling while running, but didn’t want to give it up. When I talked to my neurologist, she said it was a common problem and that I should lower my standards, which to be honest, pissed me off,” she said.
Unwilling to give up, and with the AFO, Hile continued to run. To date, she has completed 49 marathons — many with husband Brian by her side. “He actually got me into running, he was already a marathon runner and he would come home, sore and barely able to walk, and I wanted to know what that felt like,” she said, and she started training.
Finding herself quickly addicted to the “runner’s high” and loving the travel opportunities associated with marathons, Hile made it a regular part of her life.
Because running is her motivator and “keeps me going,” Hile encourages those who are newly diagnosed to find a passion to keep them going. “When you are first diagnosed, you are going to go through depression ... you need something else to focus on rather than the disease,” she said. “One of the mistakes I made was Googling ‘Multiple Sclerosis’ to find so many terrible and terrifying forums. I hated when people told me to be positive, but it’s true. Be positive, be grateful for what you have and it will get you through. Focus on the good.”
Using the time spent running in marathons for a little self-healing positive imagery, she added, “A marathon is really long, so a lot of things go through my head. The first half is about enjoying the scenery and the crowd. It’s usually a destination run, so I like seeing that. When I start to get tired, I do a little mantra. I focus on the word ‘pathway,’ I’m telling my brain to create new neural pathways. I try to focus on a word or two with each footstep. After that, toward the last mile or two, I perk back up again and focus on the surroundings.”
To further encourage those with MS — newly diagnosed or not — and raise funds for the MS Society, she will embark on her worldwide adventure.
Rich Israel, MS Pacific South Coast Chapter president, said the proceeds will be huge for the Society, as they are heavily reliant on fundraising events, such as bike and walk challenges. “We are thrilled to be the beneficiaries of Cheryl’s fundraiser. People like Cheryl are changing the world for people with MS in multiple ways,” he said.
The mission of the MS Society is three-fold: raise money to ultimately end MS, offer help for those affected by MS and support advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. “Our core mission is raising enough money to fund the most promising research we can to not only stop MS in its tracks, but restore what’s been lost by those with MS. We also help those living with MS, including care providers and families, not just those diagnosed. Lastly, we invest in efforts to leverage our work through advocacy in Washington, D.C. and the State capital. We advocate for more than just money, but things that can have a favorable impact,” he explained.
Hile launched a website to blog about her experience: cherylhile.com and a separate crowd-funding website to raise funds, and said she would also accept donations of hotel vouchers, air miles and race registration with proceeds going to the MS Society: bit.ly/cherylhile
On the Web: nationalmssociety.org