It was not until I started my 7 on 7 journey that I began to understand the expression “it takes a village.” You have all contributed to helping me travel around the globe and I am incredibly grateful for your support. You gave me the courage I needed to push through the tough races, like Buenos Aires when I had terrible MS symptoms and Christchurch where it poured rained for five hours straight. Each and every one of you were part of this journey and were with me in spirit as I ran.
I started fundraising in October 2015, about one year before my first marathon in Cape Town in September 2016. Over the course of two years, I raised $46,716 in cash and in-kind donations. This included two Hanger Clinic sponsorships, two Challenged Athletes Foundation grants, a Kinetic Research donation, Coolcore ambassadorships, donations from my mother, mother-in-law, auntie and my cherished friends, and in-kind airplane tickets and hotel points from generous co-workers.
Brian and I coordinated three fundraisers. The first was at Culture Brewing in Solana Beach. The In-Slider food truck hosted food and a percentage of beer sales were donated to the National MS Society. I collected personal travel donations through a raffle… pardon me, an “opportunity drawing” (darn California tax codes), for prizes contributed by Santa Barbara Tourism Bureau, Athleta, Larabar, Coolcore, Makeup by Hawiza, Acupuncture Center of La Jolla, and several races (Self Transcendence Swim/Run, Long Beach Marathon and OC Marathon). There was a lot of merriment because of the beer and even “kind strangers” visiting the brewery were enthusiastic to buy opportunity tickets!
For the second fundraiser, BIC Bands allowed me to customize a headband pattern. They printed it on fabric and sewed 40 headbands, then gave them to me to sell. My friends were so generous and gave more than the $15 I was requesting. Lesson learned, it helps to have a fabulous product to motivate people to donate more.
The last fundraiser was the Hile Mile Run Walk. We hosted a one mile run at UCSD and we had a ton of fun. EmbroidMe Sorrento Valley donated event shirts, Perfect Bar and NuttZo provided samples and prizes, and star baker Laura Louie treated everyone with incredible bakes! We definitely ate more calories than we burned, but it was worth it!
I had TV interviews and articles written about me. Each media spot garnered 3-4 "kind stranger" donations. Although my fundraiser never quite snowballed like I had hoped. I learned about a Scottish guy running an ultra-marathon in China where he fell in love with a stray dog that followed him on the course. When he returned home, he started fundraising and immediately raised $7000 to bring home the dog! I should have run with a dog!
Fastest marathon dressed as a fast food item
Or I should have run in a hotdog costume, for that matter! Being the first person with MS to run 7 on 7 was not a world record according to Guinness because “being first” is not a breakable record. Being the fastest Challenged Athlete to run 7 on 7 is not a world record from their perspective because it has to be breakable by anyone. However, if I would have worn a hotdog custom in all the races, I may have set a world record for the fastest hotdog to run 7 marathons on 7 continents. Go figure.
One friend suggested I reapply for a record by stating I am the fastest to run 7 on 7 wearing an ankle foot orthotic (AFO). That is the medical device I must wear for foot drop, a common symptom of MS. The electrical signal from my brain to my shin to elevate my foot is too weak and too slow for running. As a result, I trip over my own foot while running. Anyway, anyone can wear an AFO and break the record if they want to, but who would? Running with an AFO is squeaky in the shoe, it can cause blisters, and you can get chaffing and bruising. Despite discomfort, I love my AFO because it keeps me in the game.
I did some speeches in New Zealand and Japan, and made new MS friends in South Africa, Japan, NZ, and Austria. It was surprising to know that most of them were unaware of the AFO. I introduced some people via email to my orthotist, Ara Mirzaian, from Hanger Clinic to help them obtain AFOs. He is the best orthotist and clearly embodies the company’s motto: Empowering Human Potential.
I have to further thank Hanger Clinic. Not only did they provide funding for my Antarctica marathon fees and other travel expenses, but they also did a great job to promote my story. Shonn Goodwin flew to San Diego and filmed me for two days straight to create this five minute promo video. Shonn and Krisita Burket also came to La Jolla to do their company’s first Facebook Live with me. We got a lot of likes on Facebook, but the most significant part of that day was Shonn and Krisita promising to run the Sydney Marathon with Brian and me!
I also have to give a shout out to my acupuncturist, Julie Simonton, from the Acupuncture Center of La Jolla. The only time I am able to lay still without moving for 30 minutes is when I have acupuncture. Julie has treated my running pains like chondromalacia, plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome,. Acupuncture is so calming and healing and I wish insurance coverage was more generous with alternative medicine. Acupuncture is so much healthier than pounding down NSAIDs.
Part of my journey also included obtaining product ambassadorships and sponsorships. I wrote to more than 50 companies trying to get help, but I only heard crickets. The best opportunities were cold selling myself at race expos, travel shows and even Costco!
XCom Global: I met them at the San Diego Travel Show in 2016. The sales rep Olivia was awesome and promoted me to the company. With her great skill, she got XCom Global to provide mobile wifi for all my trips! All of my emails and Facebook post during my travels were powered by XCom Global!
Perfect Bar and Nuttzo: My marathons, training runs and travel were powered by these two wholesome companies. I love that I can read all of their ingredients on the label, and I also love that they are San Diego based companies.
Coolcore, Running Skirts and BIC Bands: Thank you to these great companies for providing comfortable, cooling and stylish running apparel and gear. It’s an honor to be a brand ambassador.
Throughout my journey I have met many people with MS. One girl from the UK emailed me and said she is newly diagnosed and is also a runner. She said she Googled “running” and “MS” and my story was the first thing that popped up for her. She wanted to thank me for giving her hope. Hearing stories like that makes this adventure more satisfying than my personal achievements. I am proud that I am making a difference and I hope I can continue to help and encourage people!