On November 2, I will run 57 miles from Penn State to Bucknell University to raise money to support lyme disease research and awareness, by raising money for the Global Lyme Alliance. At Bucknell the Men’s Cross Country Team has a tradition to run from one campus to the other so I am carrying on the tradition through my ultra-distance fundraiser.
Last fall I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Prior to my diagnosis I had some health issues and finding the cause became a wild goose chase. In the medical community there is some controversy about how to treat Lyme disease and even if there is such a thing as chronic Lyme disease.
My goal is to raise awareness about Lyme disease. A deer tick can be incredibly hard to find, a larval tick can be as small as the period at the end of this sentence. If you do not have the bull’s-eye rash it can take years to get an answer. Lyme disease can look like so many other diseases and so much is dependent on the person, their symptoms, their doctor’s understanding of the disease. For me there is not a cure, it is about managing my symptoms and killing lingering bacteria.
A few years ago I took the test for Lyme disease and it came back negative. From that point I barked up a lot of different trees looking to find out what was wrong and making me feel so sick. A doctor suggested maybe I wasn’t feeling well because I was not sleeping and when I went to a GI specialist he were sure I had Crohn’s disease. Some doctors thought my symptoms were all in my head. For a while I really chased a diagnosis and then I just let it go. My blood work from the initial Lyme test contained 3 markers for Lyme disease but the CDC requires patients to have 5. When I learned I had so many markers I connected with a Lyme literate doctor and began treatment.
With my Lyme disease being caught at a later stage there are more long standing effects on my health. At diagnosis, I began taking three different antibiotics for four month, started taking herbal supplements, and altered my diet a lot. Before I changed my diet I was having GI issues and to keep inflammation down I now eat a mostly gluten and dairy free diet (I can’t resist the occasional beer) and try to keep my sugar intake down. I do feel better and am still testing to see if I have other food sensitivities. I still have arthritis in my knees, wrists, and fingers but that has improved. I get headaches that last for days but that’s gotten better too. In March, I ran Ragnar Tennessee as an ultra team and ran a lot of miles, but stomach was a mess. I’m still figuring out what works best for me.
The idea to do a run to raise awareness was an easy leap for me; I’ve been running for as long as I can remember. My dad is a marathon runner and my identical twin sister and I grew up in the running community; we just loved it. My sister and I would jump in and run with our dad for the last few miles of his marathons. My dad ran Boston in 2001 and asked my sister and I met to meet him at the top of Heartbreak Hill. We ran him to the finish line.
Running such a long distance a new challenge for me; I will have to be careful training this summer. I have never run 57 miles and did my first 50k at North Face this spring. In high school I was a high mileage athlete and since college I have run low mileage, with a lot of cross training mixed in to my routine. In preparing for November I’ll need to be back up to running 50-55 miles a week. I have to learn to be lenient and know I can cross train if I need it and take my own advice to stay healthy.
I’ll have a crew out there during the run with me to make sure that I am ok and a van following me so I can stop, get food, and stretch. My sister is a cyclist and she is going to ride with me while I run. The roads between the two schools are just a two-lane roads through Pennsylvania Amish country so I’ll appreciate the support of my crew. At this point I have set my bar for fundraising for $5000. Hopefully my run will gain traction with fundraising as we get closer to November 2.
The year my husband ran from Penn State back to Bucknell in 2011. He and some teammates had a final that morning. When they were finished they drove to Penn State and started running at noon. The cross country coach opened the track and made sure the lights were on when they got back to campus. They just ran on grit. Not long after my Lyme diagnosis I thought, yes, I am going to do that run. I have no illusion that is not going to hurt, it will hurt a lot, but I am excited about the challenge. With running it gets to a point where it is all mental strength over the physical pain.