Running miles for MS
Becoming a part of something bigger
ENNIS - As Madison County’s community reporter, I don’t write stories about myself very often. I love to listen, because if you listen long enough, everyone has a pretty spectacular story.
But when I recently shared the story of my involvement with the nonprofit MS Run the US with my coworkers here at the Madisonian, we agreed it was something that deserved as much increased awareness as we could garner for it. That’s how I ended up writing a story about myself, which isn’t something I often find in my job description.
I discovered MS Run the US the summer before I graduated from college. It’s a nonprofit that raises money and awareness of multiple sclerosis and the impacts it has on the people who live with it, not to mention their family and friends.
It’s no exaggeration to say MS Run the US has changed my life.
MS Run the US
The main mechanism by which MS Run the US pursues its mission is an annual cross-country relay, created by dividing the United States into segments and assigning each one to a runner, who traverses their assigned section in about a week. On foot. Runners from across the country take on a traverse between 150 and 180 miles and they run a marathon, every day, for a week.
My job that first summer wasn’t running, but doing everything else besides. I spent the summer as a member of the road crew, helping runners with everything from breakfast, lunch and dinner to laundry, post-run ice baths and everything in between. I drove an RV from Iowa to New York City helping the runners do what they do best, all for a cause much bigger than themselves.
Ashley Schneider created the nonprofit for the benefit of her mother, Jill who had lived with MS since her diagnosis when Ashley was 14. In 2010, Ashley ran the entire nation by herself, crewed by one friend out of a sedan. She ran the 3,000 miles by herself, taking one day off a week, beginning in Santa Monica and ending in New York.
Her mother passed away just a few months before I joined the team. By then, MS Run the US had raised over $1 million for MS research and accessibility projects nationwide that make the lives of those living with MS easier, from wheelchair accessible transportation to ramps and countless other projects.
That summer as a road crew member showed me just how far an MS diagnosis reaches, how many lives it touches, just how challenging it can be for not just an individual, but a family, a community.
The first time I learned what multiple sclerosis was, I was in seventh grade. Our science teacher was out of school one day, and I remember having a substitute. It wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary, until her absence stretched from one day to a week, to two weeks, to a month.
When she came back to school, she was quieter than we remembered. When we learned what had happened, I’m sure we all went home and asked our parents what MS was. I know I did. She wasn’t even forty years old, and my confusion can’t have been anything compared to what she felt.
A neurological disorder that targets nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, MS isn’t experienced the same way by any two people who suffer from it. It interrupts the ways in which the nervous system communicates throughout the body and can manifest itself in countless ways: blindness, weakness, coordination problems and loss of mobility are only a few of its symptoms.
While treatment research is constantly ongoing, MS has no known cure. The only way to find one is to keep looking.
When I worked on the MS Run the US road crew I was often asked, by runners or other crew members or just people we met: “Would you ever think about doing a segment?”
Never, I said. That’s too far for me. I run 5ks mostly, sometimes a half marathon. It would be way too hard.
But the more I thought about it, the less “it’s too hard,” seemed like a valid excuse. It seems like nearly everyone has known someone affected by MS. I watched as all the water ran out of my argument, and one day I realized there was nothing standing in my way. I applied. I got accepted.
And that’s why this story ended up in the Madisonian. A story about a reporter, by a reporter, jumping into something bigger than herself.
In May 2019, I’ll be running from Vernal, Utah to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 165 miles and two incredible western towns much like Ennis, or Bozeman, or Twin Bridges or Dillon.
I’ve been set a goal of fundraising $10,000, something each and every MS Run the US runner does. It seems like a vast, huge, impossible number.
But if there’s anything I know, it’s that the community I’ve become a part of across the state of Montana—the running community, the local journalism community, the school and local business and restaurant and outdoor recreation communities—are the most incredible anywhere.
My segment of MS Run the US will run from May 15-20, 2019, but the fundraising effort has already begun. To learn more or to donate, you can find my page at www.msruntheus.org/campaigns/reagan-colyer-segment-6.
Or as always, when I’m not out chasing stories you can find me at The Madisonian office at 406-682-7755.