Today’s guest was part of the 2021 MS Run the US relay team to raise money and awareness to help fight the fight against multiple sclerosis.
Her leg of the relay covered 162 miles over 6 days and the cause is personal since she is one of 7 on the relay that is living with multiple sclerosis.
I am looking forward to going a few easy miles today with Melinda Perea!
Spartan Races Were The Gateway
Melinda Perea has only been referring to herself as a runner for a couple of years.
It took her a few years and multiple Spartan races before she admitted that she was a runner.
Melinda completed her first Spartan race in 2018 and was immediately hooked.
Obstacle course races challenged not only her physical strength but also her mental strength.
The strength she gained mentally translated over to road races as well.
Just as she was beginning to gain confidence in her running she was struck with some unexpected news.
An Uncertain Future
Melinda was officially diagnosed with MS in January of 2020.
Her symptoms came on gradually and were unassuming at first.
The first symptom Melinda noticed was that her right big toe would sporadically lose feeling and go numb.
Then while running or walking, Melinda noticed her right foot would occasionally catch on her left foot causing her to trip.
The appearance of symptoms on her right side caused her to be concerned and she scheduled a consult with her doctor.
She began having increased nerve issues which affected not only her athletic performance, but also her energy levels.
Her disease was caught in the early stages which resulted in a more positive prognosis.
Since her diagnosis, Melinda has an underlying fear of what the future may hold and therefore wants to stay active for as long as her body allows.
Ready To Embrace A Challenge
Melinda had to work with a physical therapist to regain strength in her legs after her initial diagnosis.
She was unable to run a mile for 4 to 5 months before she was able to build up strength again.
It was September of 2020 when Melinda came across MS Run the US on social media.
She felt drawn to the challenge and wasted no time submitting her application that very night.
Melinda assumed her chances of being selected were low but she was ready to embrace the challenge.
It turned out she was wrong and did in fact get selected to join the 2021 MS Run the US relay team.
Putting In The Work
Being a member of the relay team meant committing to a fundraising goal as well.
Melinda wasn’t nervous about raising money because the cause was so personal to her.
Her main source of outreach was through social media along with holding one in-person event.
The generosity of her family, friends, and co-workers helped her to easily exceed her fundraising goal.
Once she had the fundraising piece taken care of that allowed her to focus on the training.
With the support of coaches and friends, the training went as smoothly as it could go.
Melinda was able to stay injury-free which she attributes to the addition of cross-training and strength training.
Her biggest takeaway during training was to trust the process completely.
MS Run The US
Melinda resides in San Diego, California, and did all of her training there.
The mild weather of her hometown didn’t prepare her for the extreme heat and humidity she faced in the first few days of the relay.
The first 3 days were a bit of a struggle not only dealing with the heat but also how MS was impacting her body.
On day 4, the weather cooled a bit and Melinda began to find her stride.
She handled the mileage by breaking it up into 2 runs per day on days 4 to 6.
When she wasn’t on her feet, she was focused on recovery.
Her recovery included foam rolling, stretching, compression, ice baths, and sleep.
Melinda never doubted she would finish the challenge, but when she crossed the finish she was left with a sense of awe at what she accomplished.
Melinda’s leg of the relay finished in Nebraska.
She, along with those closest to her, had a fun road trip back to California extending the celebratory feeling.
Once home, Melinda experienced a “now what” feeling as the high from her accomplishment began to dissipate.
She has found that putting races on her calendar has helped to maintain focus.
Melinda is slowly getting back to her routines which include running and strength consistently along with jazzercise.
Overall the experience was one that she will never forget and the connections she made with others will last a lifetime.
Lessons Learned Along The Way
From the months preparing for the relay to the actual challenge itself, Melinda learned a lot of lessons along the way.
- Don’t let fear hold you back.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people.
- Little improvements turn into big improvements over time.
- Don’t put limitations on your body.
- When it’s personal to you, you will find a way to make it happen.
The future holds a lot of unknowns for Melinda but she proved to herself that she is capable of so much more than she thinks.
She has come to realize that she prefers to cling to hope rather than despair.
Melinda is making a choice every day to focus on what she can do and not what she cannot.
Mentioned In This Episode:
Stay connected with Melinda Perea by following her on Instagram.
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