She ran across America – an interview with Ashley @MSRunTheUS

One of the first people I started following on Twitter was Ashley Kumlien.  Ashley is a runner and a personal trainer from Wisconsin. 

And her mom has MS.

Ashley and her mom, Jill

Most people who read my blog posts know that I have CMT, a neuromuscular disease of the nerves, and my particular type of CMT involves the myelin sheath.  Multiple Sclerosis was “discovered” by Jean-Marie Charcot, one of the doctors who also discovered CMT.  It is a disease that impacts the brain and spinal cord, in particular the myelin sheaths are damaged.  It too can lead to degeneration of movement and sensation, and also sometimes the thinking processes.  So although it is different from CMT, in my simple mind it also shares some similarities. 

I have always supported MS fundraisers – from the MS150 rides to individuals who have run races.  So when I started following Ashley I was instantly interested in her plans.  The simple fact that she was planning to RUN ACROSS THE US for MS, struck me – this woman is extraordinary.

I’ve been following Ashley and her run for 6 months now.  I try to support her with regular tweets and by letting people know about her efforts through my tweetstream.  I’ve seen her photos.  Cheered for her and all the great publicity and experiences she has had while raising awareness and funds for MS. 

Ashley being interviewed at Wrigley Field

Today, I want to share an interview with Ashley about her run. 

Ashley finished her 3,200 mile run across the United States yesterday.

Can you imagine running across the US?  A real live Forrest Gump?  And all to honour your mother and to see a cure for MS?

Join me in supporting Ashley’s amazing efforts.  You can donate on her website at—you can see her extraordinary journey on her Flickr photo stream —and you can read all about the past 6 months on Ashley’s blog.


DD: Wow. You just finished a run across the US. How long did it take you?

AK: From start to finish line run, it took 6 months & four days to run from the Golden Gate Bridge in California to the City Hall steps in New York City

Ashley, March 2010, Day 1 of MSRuntheUS

DD: How did you prepare for the run?

AK: Lots of running! Haha I feel like I’ve been preparing for this my whole life, though I didn’t have the idea until 2 years ago. I’m a life-long lover of long distance running & feel that helped me complete the run injury free (which is a big feat in my eyes… you never can know how your body will take the stress until you’re out there no matter how long you’ve been an athlete). But I started ultramarathon running a year ago in the Summer of 2009 to test my willpower to continue running when I am too tired to move.

DD: What inspired you to do it?

AK: My Mom, who has been living with a disabling disease, Multiple Sclerosis, for over 28 years. I feel her life & example of how to live graciously through adverse challenges is the real show of what endurance is all about. To wake up every day and be thankful, as well as hold strong to the Faith that everything will work out is the ultimate human willpower in my eyes. I wanted to do something big to honor that.

DD: What is it like, having a parent with MS?

AK: I plan on writing a book about the run & exactly what it has been like for my family living with my Mom’s disease… but in one word to sum it all up, difficult. But you take what you’re given and make the best of it, and I’m thankful for that life-long lesson that’s extremely useful in so many ways.

DD: How does MS Run the US intend to use the funds that have been raised?

AK: We donate the funds between two charitable organizations we believe in, The Montel Williams MS Foundation & The National MS Society.

Jill with Montel Williams

DD: For those interested in showing their support to you, how can they do so?

AK: First and foremost, donate at . We feel this year has been a big, big effort on our part & it deserves a big fundraising backing to show how much love and dedication we’ve put forth. Second, pass our story on! We want to raise awareness about MS as well as funds, so the more people know about my Mother’s story, the more others can learn that this is a disease that needs some attention & compassion.

DD: I have to ask – have you always been a runner? Running this much is extraordinary!

AK: Thank you for the compliment! I feel blessed to have this love of the sport. And to answer your question, yes, I have always been a runner. I joke that I must have run out of my Mom’s womb. Loving long distance running is an early memory of mine that continued to grow with age.

DD: Do you have any tips for new runners?

AK: First…it gets better!!! I won’t say it’s ever easy, but as you develop as an athlete (to whatever degree you want to be one) your body will adjust to the workouts. It’s not the same for everyone, but eventually your body will be able to handle the stress & you may actually grow to enjoy running. The first 4-8 weeks are always the toughest, that’s when most people quit. But if you stick with it, however that’s possible (either through group running, joining a club, etc) the benefits & the joy you can get from it far outweigh the work, sweat, and discomfort!

DD: For those interested in charity fundraising, do you have any tips that you could share?

AK:  Pick. Something. You. Are. Passionate. About. Fundraising is tough work! You basically have to put humility aside and flat out ask people for donations in whatever form you are looking for (monetary, in-kind, supplies, etc). Being passionate about whatever you’re asking for helps put pride aside so you can go out and get what the cause needs.

DD: What ran through your head during the tough moments?

AK: I always think of my Mom in the tough times. I get to do something I love whenever I feel like it. Exercise is painful but complete freedom, and I see in her eyes her want to get up and move whenever she would like, but usually can’t. When you grow up watching someone become disabled, your perspective on small things, like walking, completely changes. The view goes from “I have to run” to “I get to run” and that’s always enough to keep me moving.

DD: And finally, do you have any particular song, mantra, or motivating thought you could share with us?

AK: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” ~Steve Prefontaine I love that quote because it can be applied to any area of life!

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