Today’s guest is a woman that has raised thousands of dollars over the years to help fight Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that she has been living with since 2013.
Earlier this summer she took to the roads of Ohio to cover 172 miles over 6 days as a part of the 2021 MS Run the US Relay team and raised almost $17k for the cause.
I am looking forward to going a few easy miles with Julie Burke today.
Right In Front Of Her
Julie Burke grew up going to races and being surrounded by runners.
The irony is that she didn’t get into the sport until much later in life.
Most of her childhood memories revolved around races due to the fact that her dad is a runner.
As a child, she always wanted to be a runner, but she was never able to get into the sport.
While in her 20’s, Julie decided to give running a try again.
Though she was around the sport for all of her life, she found that she didn’t know much about it.
She made a lot of common mistakes which resulted in injuries and eventually knee surgery.
Following her surgery, she didn’t run for the next 10 years.
When Julie eventually picked up running again she was in her 30’s.
This time around she worked with a physical therapist and learned more about the proper way to approach the sport.
Fifteen years later, Julie has managed to stay healthy and has made running a part of her life.
Julie was pain-free and running consistently when she began to notice worrisome symptoms.
Initially, she assumed her symptoms were related to running.
The left side of her body was experiencing a myriad of symptoms ranging from tingling in her feet all the way up to her hand.
Julie knew something was seriously wrong when she woke up one morning unable to feel the entire left side of her body.
It took 6 months, several different doctors, and a multitude of tests before Julie was officially diagnosed with MS.
Running From MS
Since receiving her diagnosis 8 years ago, Julie has still been able to run though it hasn’t always been easy.
One of her MS symptoms occurs when her core temperature heats up, which happens frequently while running.
When her temperature increases, Julie begins to experience numbness in the left side of her body along with vision loss in her left eye.
Julie refuses to quit running because she has seen a lot of benefits both mentally and physically from continuing to run.
She has found ways to manage her symptoms while still doing the things she loves.
Julie ran her first half marathon and proved to the world that she can and will continue to stay active.
Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things
After being diagnosed with MS, Julie focused on raising money in any way she could.
Over the years, she participated in various events that supported MS research.
Julie had completed both walking and biking challenges but was on the search for a running-specific fundraiser.
In her search, Julie came across MS Run the US.
It is a multi-person relay where each participant is responsible for running 172 miles over the course of 6 days.
When Julie learned about the relay she hadn’t even run one marathon yet.
She decided to become an ambassador of the organization before applying to be on the relay team.
Over the course of her 2 years as an ambassador, it became clear to Julie that these weren’t elite people completing the relay.
The relay team consisted of ordinary everyday people doing extraordinary things.
Why Not Me
The process of becoming an ambassador to officially being accepted on the relay team was a gradual one.
During her time as an ambassador, she ran a marathon and also spent a day with a relay runner finishing up the challenge.
Julie kept circling back to the question of “why not me?”
Shortly after applying, Julie was accepted onto the 2020 MS Run the US relay team.
The year 2020 had a record amount of races canceled due to the pandemic and the relay was no different.
The 2020 team shifted from an in-person event to a virtual event.
Julie was worried that her body may not be able to handle the challenge two years in a row.
A mere 8 days before she was due to run her virtual segment, she broke her leg.
Starting At Square One
At the time Julie broke her leg, she had already raised over $10k for her portion of the fundraising.
Julie had a decision to make.
She could choose not to run the 2021 MS Run the US relay or she could start fundraising from zero and get healthy enough to run again.
Julie chose option 2 and began the year-long journey to getting to her starting line.
She was confident she could accomplish her goals, but she knew it wouldn’t be comfortable.
Fundraising again was the most intimidating factor for Julie.
The support from family, friends, and complete strangers shocked Julie.
Everyone wanted to see Julie accomplish her goals, just as much as she did.
It took Julie 5 long months to fully recover from breaking her leg and be able to run again.
Once cleared to run, she had 6 months to build her fitness and remain healthy to line up at the start line.
After 3 months of building her base, Julie was hit with yet another setback.
On the first day of her official training plan, she was diagnosed with Covid-19.
Julie struggled with a lot of breathing issues but thankfully was eventually able to begin training again.
Her number one goal was to show up at the event in one piece, healthy and uninjured.
She was able to accomplish that and take the first of many steps to the finish line 6 days later.
One Day At A Time
When undertaking a physical challenge there will always be issues that arise.
As a runner with MS, Julie knew that she would have to overcome more challenges than the average runner.
One of the most challenging aspects of running with MS was dealing with the heat and also with increased recovery time.
Julie focused on each day as they happened to avoid getting overwhelmed at all the obstacles in her way.
In an effort to stay cool and mitigate the heat Julie would start running before the sun came out and relied heavily on and ice and fluids.
Forcing herself to eat promptly after finishing each leg was helpful in aiding in a quicker recovery.
At the end of each day, Julie did a combination of ice baths, massage gun, and foam rolling until she went to bed.
Julie was especially grateful that she had people to run with each and every day.
The company was a pleasant distraction that she credits with getting her through some of the hardest miles.
Crossing the finish line for MS Run the US was one of the greatest accomplishments for Julie.
Upon completing the relay, she had no idea the emotions that would soon follow.
Julie didn’t run for 35 days following the relay.
She is enjoying her off-season with no formal training plan to follow.
2022 is wide open in terms of races with no plans in place.
Over the years, running has proven to be the best medicine for Julie both physically and mentally.
She has found that running reflects life in a variety of ways.
If she puts in the work and maintains focus there is nothing she can’t accomplish.
Mentioned In This Episode:
Stay connected with Julie Burke by following her on Instagram.
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