Christchurch Marathon 6.4.17

The motivation for me to run seven marathons on seven continents is two-fold. I want the personal satisfaction of achieving something cool that no other person with Multiple Sclerosis has done. But, more importantly, I wish to encourage people with MS to keep moving no matter their level of ability. MS is a disease that impairs your mobility and I believe we have to fight it by doing whatever we can to keep moving. I do not want people to lower their expectations the way my first neurologist told me to do. I hope to inspire people with MS to do what they can and never give up!

Wonderful meeting hosted by Robin Furley and MS-PD

Prior to the Christchurch Marathon, Brian and I met with the Multiple Sclerosis & Parkinson’s Society of Canterbury. Robin Furley, Manager of MS-PD, arranged a meeting for Brian and me to present our story before an audience of about 30 people. Our talk was only 12 minutes, but I believe we made a positive impact. Afterwards, we spoke to a few of the attendees and they did say they felt exhilarated to keep on moving or to start a new exercise program.

One remarkable woman we met that evening was Nan Stewardson. She had to give up running due to all the injuries she sustained from tripping and falling while running. However, she did not stop moving. She is a serious cyclist and climbs up mountains that makes grown men cry. I know because I hiked one of her routes and I saw a couple of cyclists struggling. Since that meeting, I have stayed in contact with Nan and introduced her to my amazing orthotist Ara Mirzaian at Hanger Clinic. She hopes to get an Ankle-Foot Orthotic (AFO) from him so she can start running again. I inspired Nan a little and her positive vibe excited me for the marathon.

Bill and Nan gave us a tour of Christchurch's beautiful beaches and mountains!

I had high hopes for the Christchurch Marathon. It was my 43rd marathon with MS and the event was on my 43rd birthday! What better way to celebrate your birthday than running 26.2miles with your hubby!

Marathon Morning - 15 minutes before race start

Christchurch Marathon was one of the most challenging races we have done. It rained the entire time with the exception of the last five minutes. Also, the course was not forgiving for a person who has to wear an AFO. The brace does not lend well for sharp lateral movements and I had a lot of side-to-side running to avoid potholes and rain puddles. Plus, most of the race was in the Red Zone, an area where the ground is liquefaction and badly damaged by the terrible February 2011 earthquake. The street surface was ruddy and despite wearing an AFO, I was worried of tripping and falling.  As a result, I had some bruising on my foot and leg, plus it looks like we added an extra 0.40 miles of running to avoid the obstacles. (First with MS to run an ultra-marathon in the rain in Christchurch?!)

We tried to remain positive by smiling, but it was a difficult day.

The poor volunteer does not look happy, either!

Brian and I agree this marathon was harder than Antarctica. We know we were extremely lucky in Antarctica, which was 30-34 degrees with 15-20 mph winds and no rain. Christchurch was warmer at 38-43 degrees with 15-20 mph winds, but the pouring rain made it depressing.

Mile 14 was almost 15 minutes long. Recall the 20 minute port-a-loo stop we had at the Tokyo City Marathon where we had to wait in a huge line? We had a similar delay in Christchurch. There were no long lines, but when Brian got inside the port-a-loo, he realized his hands were so frozen that he could not pull down his pants to pee! I heard him call out “I can’t do anything in here!”  

Once outside of the loo, I helped Brian rearrange his clothing. We were running with rain ponchos and had to remove some layers of clothing because it was hot under the plastic. Brian’s sweat started to freeze and caused him to strongly shiver. His fingers were also ghostly white. I helped him put back on his top layer, skull cap, running hat and poncho. It was a slow process because the pouring rain made everything sticky.

The marathon route was one big loop and two small loops. Or maybe it was two big loops and one small loop. Whatever it was, we ran the Red Zone over and over. The scenery definitely did not help distract our minds from the rain! We managed the run through small conversation and we did try to be lighthearted at times (see video). But I mainly lived inside my head trying not to think of the misery. I counted my footsteps a lot, which was easy to do since my head was hanging down the whole time. I did have moments of happiness when I thought of our sponsors and friends back home rooting for us, and of our dear friend Kim Graves who was waiting for us at the end.

As we neared the finish line, the kiddie one mile race was taking place. We were passed by a sprightly teenager with blond braids matted down by the rain, but I did not feel dejected. I saw Kim taking video of our finish and I managed a smile when I saw the finish line. However, I was so tired, numb, cold, soaking wet and muddy that I could barely emote. I felt like crying when I hugged Brian and Kim, but I was too exhausted to shed tears. I just wanted to go back to the hotel. There were no ceremonies at the end.

Thank goodness only 50 meters to go!

I did not comprehend the accomplishment until I was showered, warmed up and had a beer in my hand. Brian looked into my eyes and told me how proud he is of me. I am the first person with MS to run 7 marathons on 7 continents and that I made this adventure happen on my own. That’s when the tears started flowing!

I dreamed up the idea of this adventure on July 4, 2015. I reached out to 30+ companies for sponsorships . I applied for four grants. I coordinated three fundraisers. I sent out almost 40 press releases (Note: Hanger Clinic and CrowdRise used their powerful influence to get me some media coverage). I learned to build a blog through YouTube. I planned all of the travel logistics by myself, including air, hotel, ground transportation and marathon schedule (Note: Cape Town flights were graciously donated and planned by Alex Snoeren). I even learned how to suck up stage fright and share my story on TV and at live events. I did a lot of this work on the weekends. MS fatigue is one of my more debilitating symptoms and it is hard to think straight after I come home from work due to the brain fog.

That said, I am very excited to run Sydney Marathon on September 17, 2017 with my Hanger Clinic family. I need redemption and I want to end this adventure on a high note!

Many heartfelt thanks to my friends and sponsors!

I cannot run at all without my Ankle Foot Orthotic. I want to give a huge thank you to Ara Mirzaian at Hanger Clinic and Wade Bader at Kinetic Research for keeping me in the game.

Thank you Coolcore for the great running gear. I actually wore Coolcore throughout the entire trip. Your new summer line travels well and looks great for touring. Pictures in New Zealand blog posts to come.

Thank you Challenged Athletes Foundation for honoring me again this year with a 2017 scholarship.

Thank you XCom Global for the mobile wifi devices. You powered my daily Facebook posts and being connected while on the road was immensely needed for driving directions. Driving on the right side of the road with all the roundabouts in New Zealand was very difficult!

Thank you Perfect Bar for fueling our days. Perfect Bar is our preferred pre-race nutrition. It is clean and does not cause me tummy issues while running! (Sorry if that’s TMI) It is also perfect for our post-race meal because of the extra protein.