CSE contracts and grants administrator Cheryl Hile was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2006. Now she has embarked on an ambitious plan to become the first person with MS to run seven marathons on seven continents in a single year.
At the time of her diagnosis, Hile's neurologist urged her to lower her expectations. "That ticked me off," she recalls, "so I adopted a new life mantra to do what I can and never give up." As a runner of marathons since 2000, she had to get used to one particular new symptom of the MS after 2006: she suffered from dropfoot, which would cause her to trip and fall when running. So she learned to run while wearing an ankle-foot orthotic (AFO) made of carbon fiber. Since then, Hile has run in 32 marathons and 30 half-marathons, each time wearing the AFO device.
Now she has set for herself the goal to run marathons on seven continents in 12 months. "I want to achieve this to inspire people to never lower their expectations," explains Hile. "I want to encourage others, with or without MS, that they should always do what they can and never give up."
Running in races on seven continents won't come cheap, so Hile hopes to raise sufficient funds for travel expenses on CrowdRise, while also raising money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for its research and patient programs. (E.g., on March 22, Culture Brewing in Solana Beach will donate 20 percent of sales from 5-8pm to benefit the MS Society; see Evite below.)
"Antarctica will be a huge expense, especially since there will be two of us," says Hile. "My husband Brian runs all the marathons beside me because my MS symptoms can be unpredictable, so he's there in case I fall, or I'm too weak to tear open a GU energy packet, or to adjust my orthotic device on my foot." (At left: Hile waves while wearing her ankle-foot orthotic during the San Francisco Marathon.)
Organizers of some races are expressing support for Hile in her campaign. Marathons in Cape Town (South Africa) and Honolulu, Hawaii, have given her complimentary entry passes to those races, and she has received in-kind donations for airline tickets to those marathons.
Hile is also starting to get support from corporate sponsors: BIC Bands, which makes non-slip headbands, is helping her raise funds by creating a custom headband; Larabar is donating gift for her fundraising events; Kinetic Research, which makes her AFO device, donated $1,000; AirMed will provide membership for emergency air evacuation; Xcom Global will supply a mobile Wi-Fi device for all countries; and the organizers of the Rock 'n Roll Marathon -- Competitor Group -- will help promote her fundraising effort because she will kick off her training with the RnR Half Marathon event this coming June.
"The drug company that makes my MS medication, Biogen, cannot fund me directly due to FDA regulations, but I will be doing doctor-patient talks up and down the West Coast," says Hile. "I can spread my message at these meetings and hopefully make more connections to make this adventure possible." Hile is already scheduled to speak in San Diego, Brea, Seattle and Honolulu.
To keep friends and colleagues aware of her activities, Hile is updating her Facebook page and will launch a blog by the end of February. And she is currently featured in the January/February issue of Women's Running Magazine (pictured at right).
Hile is currently planning to launch her 7-marathon, 7-continent year with the Cape Town marathon next September.