Flying with my own arms: MS Run the US

One month from today I'll be wrapping up my six-day running journey from Vernal, Utah, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. IT WILL ALL BE OVER, which seems impossible to wrap my mind around.

 The day I accepted my invitation to the team, July 29, 2015

The day I accepted my invitation to the team, July 29, 2015

Last summer the seed was planted in my mind to join the MS Run the US relay team. The $10,000 fundraising limit scared the shit out of me, more so than the idea of running a marathon a day for six days. More than that. I'll have to cover nearly 28 miles a day for six days to complete my segment of the relay. 

Ten-thousand dollars is so very much money. I hemmed and hawed for weeks about the decision, having conversation after conversation with my friend Ashley, who founded the organization. If there's one thing to say about Ashley, it's that that girl can convince you you're invincible. I'm 96 percent certain she could convince me to fly with my own arms. I'd try it, too, and I'd probably fly because she's always right.

That girl's powerful. 

 Me and Ashley, September 2014

Me and Ashley, September 2014

To be honest, it didn't take a whole lot of convincing. A week away in some beautiful part of the country, camped out in an RV with a crew on hand to take care of your needs and become your family, running miles and miles every day -- it's not a terrible gig. Year after year I watched the relay make its way across the country, and year after year I wanted to try it so badly. 

But TEN-THOUSAND DOLLARS.

But it's for a good cause, Krista. Proceeds benefit research and programs for multiple sclerosis. 

I tried to wrap my mind around what that meant. I knew no one with MS, aside from Ashley's mom, Jill, the catalyst of MS Run the US. I adore Jill, but did it matter that I didn't have a personal connection to MS? 

 L to R: Nikki, Rachel, Jill, me at the Brewers Mini Marathon, September 2015

L to R: Nikki, Rachel, Jill, me at the Brewers Mini Marathon, September 2015

Obviously it doesn't. But I tried to find every reason why raising $10,000 for MS research would be impossible. 

Turns out it isn't impossible at all.

On July 30, 2015, I opened my fundraising website. My own $25 kicked things off. Within one day, the amazing people of the internet (bless you, Facebook and Twitter) brought my fundraising total to $1,000. 

On March 26, 2016, exactly 241 days after I began pleading to friends, family, colleagues and strangers for money, I hit $10,000. 

I RAISED TEN-THOUSAND DOLLARS.

That afternoon, I sat in my car after a long run, grinning ear-to-ear as donations poured in from friends, amazed by the sense of relief I felt now that the fundraising burden had been lifted. But also amazed at myself for accomplishing something so huge. 

I asked. I tweeted. I shared photos on Instagram. I slammed my Facebook wall. My parents slammed their Facebook walls, as did my friends. I hosted a (surprisingly successful) fundraiser. I asked some more. And it all worked. 

I said from day one that more than running 165 miles, I'd be most proud of raising $10,000 for MS research. So far, it's not a lie. That said, I haven't run the 165 miles yet, but there's something so fulfilling about fundraising. I know that I can run. I don't know that I can raise money. 

But I did.

The one thing I didn't do all this time was plaster my blog with donation asks, which was hard to do. I mean, sure, there's a link to the fundraising page on the sidebar, but I mostly wanted to save this space for something more genuine. To be able to share this part of the journey without needing anything in return.

Don't get me wrong, people. I will surely continue to take your donations, it's just that now there isn't a deadline or a goal looming over my head. Now it's just pure joy and excitement. 

Part of my role as a relay runner, though, is to serve as an ambassador for the program. Well, I ambassador'd the hell out of the rest of social media, so I saved my blog for the story. You know me and stories. LOVE THEM.

And in a month, I'll have so many stories to tell.

 My home for six days from Vernal, Utah, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado

My home for six days from Vernal, Utah, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado

I heard from more than one former relay runner that the experience changed their life. That's seems cliché, doesn't it? But how can it not change your life? It's that nugget of information that's stuck with me from the moment I first hemmed and hawed about joining the relay. 

You're out there in the middle of nowhere, on the side of a road, surrounded by nothing and everything and all things beautiful, you're tired and sore, and you just have to keep going because out there -- somewhere in that great, big world -- someone else can't. You're stuck in your own mind for six days, with nothing to worry about but taking another step.

I predict I will cry no less than five times throughout the duration of six days and 165 miles. After all, that's what I do -- I cry. 

I CAN'T WAIT. 

I want to feel everything and see everything and experience everything. I waited a long time and raised a lot of money to be able to do those things. 

So on May 15, I'll pack my things and start heading to Utah. I'll run my first step on May 17 and run into Steamboat Springs 165 miles later on May 22. I bet I could fly there with my own arms because someone once convinced me I could do anything.

And you're damn right I'll be tweeting about it. And posting photos. And surely a third of my friends will hide my Facebook feed. But that's OK because what did you do today to make a difference in someone's life?