Monday, January 6, 2014

An Interview with MS-Fundraising Marathoner Olivia!

I'm very excited to share with you today an interview with a very special person, my sister's BFF and a good friend of mine, Olivia. This past fall Olivia ran the Chicago Marathon and raised loads of money and support for MS. I am honored to be a part of her inspiration for running under the MS cause. I think there is something especially poignant about the marathon+MS connection, since it is such an extraordinary physical feat that many or most MS-ers are simply not capable of. I also know that many people with MS (myself included) who didn't particularly enjoy running pre-MS become incredibly jealous and long to be able to run. My neurologist once told me that for the brain there is a huge difference between walking and running. I know this to be true, since I currently walk without problem but on the occasions when I run a little burst here or there (chasing after a ball or something similar when playing with my niece, for example) I often experience a scary lurch-catch phenomenon where my brain/body is a few steps behind my intention. So in addition to everything else, I thank Olivia and others like her for letting us live vicariously through her. Now on to the interview! Thanks, Olivia (or ia, as I sometimes call you!) for being so very awesome and for your caring and support.

Oliva post-race!
Why did you want to run a marathon?

I have been running for a long time. When I was little, I would watch my dad get ready to go on a run after work. One day, I decided to join him and fell in love with the feeling I got from running. Ever since, running has been very important to me. Eventually, I made running my hobby and started to run races. Many runners dream of conquering a marathon, and I was definitely one of those runners. I knew that running a marathon would take dedication, determination, and much focus. One day, I was watching the Chicago Marathon and decided that 2013 would be the year I would run it!

Why did you decide to go the extra mile (haha) and run for MS?

Charities are a very important part of running the marathon, and the Chicago Marathon is a great way to raise money for all kinds of causes. I had never run a marathon before, but I knew I didn’t just want to run for myself. I was inspired by my friend, Kayla (La), who is battling MS. La’s sister, Traci, is my best friend. Hearing from Traci how strong La has been throughout her illness made me want to run for her, along with all those who suffer from MS.

One short month after signing up for the Chicago Marathon and pledging to Run for MS, I started my job as a social worker at Northwestern Hospital on the neurology unit where each day I work with patients who suffer from MS. My new job gave me, and continues to give me, an insight into how much MS affects the person, their family, and their friends.

Tell us about the experience of running the marathon, of putting you body to the test like that.

The marathon was, in a word, AWESOME. When I started training, I injured myself in the 4th week. I had Achilles tendonitis and was told not to run until my physical therapist said I could. This was TERRIBLE news. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to run the marathon at all. After going to therapy for about 8 weeks, I resumed running and trained for the remaining 4-6 weeks. Since I had such little training, I feared that I would get injured again, or worse, not be able to finish. Despite my fears, I completed the marathon and was beyond happy as I crossed the finish line.

Throughout the marathon, I ran without music. I did this because I wanted to hear all the cheering from the spectators along the route. I’m so glad I did that. I would hear “GO MS!” and “RUN FOR MS”! It was so uplifting and gave me the boost I needed many, many times throughout the race. After the race, I was tired and sore. I didn’t want to do anything but sleep. I felt lucky that I could even run at all, when so many people who suffer from MS are unable to even walk at all.

I call my blog The MS Muse, because I find the disease makes me see the world in a different way and inspires me in unique and interesting ways. How have your experiences with MS (and the experience of raising money and support for MS with the marathon) influenced the way you see the world?

As I have mentioned before, I didn’t take finishing the marathon for granted. My experiences with MS have shown me that many suffer from terrible pain which often prevents people from walking or even moving at all. Raising money for MS was not difficult because I was able to really speak from the heart how the donations would benefit MS research and overall support. Some people who donated chose to tell me their experiences with MS as well, and it served as even more fuel for my training. In general, both running and fundraising for MS, taught me that as running was painful and fundraising was stressful, I could overcome it with perseverance. My motivation and inspiration was reading about and seeing others with MS who persevere over their own pain, sadness and fear.

What are your plans for the future - do you want to run more marathons and do you plan to stay involved with the MS cause?

I caught the bug. I will be running more marathons for as long as I can run! In 2014, I plan to run a few half marathons and will run the Chicago Marathon again. I will definitely plan to stay involved in the cause for MS in the future, whether it is for the Chicago Marathon or any of the half marathons I will be running. 

The quipple-ized Olivia, and a metaphorical
message true for both running and living with MS.