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Northeast Ohio native with multiple sclerosis will run across the state

Julie Burke is a graduate of Brush High School but currently lives in South Carolina. She plans to run across Ohio in the MS Run the US Relay to raise money.

CLEVELAND — Seven years ago, Julie Burke’s life changed. 

“When I got diagnosed with MS my immediate reaction was, oh my gosh I have to fundraise for this thing, I have to throw money at this, I have to do something, I can't just sit here," she said.

She’s done endurance walks before, but running the equivalent of multiple marathons in a week wasn’t on her radar.  Until she noticed the relay on social media

“It's an organization that runs from California to New York every summer. Each segment is roughly six marathons in six days and each runner has to raise a minimum of $10,000,” she said. 

She intended to do it last year, but COVID and an injury sidelined her, although family and friends ran the miles for her. She was even more determined this year. So this Sunday, July 25th, she’ll take the baton from the fifteenth runner in Van Wert, Ohio on the Indiana border and begin the 172 mile, six day trek across her home state of Ohio.  

She knows the July heat will spark her MS symptoms. 

“When my body heats up, which it will certainly do in the middle of a July run, I will lose vision in my left eye, my left hand and foot get the pins and needles, like when your body falls asleep, or sometimes they go completely numb, but I've gotten used to that over the years, I know how to run that way and I know that as soon as I cool off those symptoms will subside, it's not doing permanent damage so it's just an inconvenience," she said. 

What does her doctor say about all this?  She totally supports Julie and sent me an emailed statement:

"MS is a highly variable disease that impacts everyone differently. Fortunately, there are excellent disease-modifying therapies that can help persons with MS function at high levels. Many studies show that exercise helps MS patients minimize disability and impacts from the disease. Exercise is recommended for all patients with MS, and it can help reduce the fatigue experienced by many MS patients. Due to this fatigue, it is unusual for persons with MS to exercise at the highest levels of fitness needed for long-distance running and marathon training which requires consistency of effort and does not allow for "bad days" on the training schedule. Managing multiple marathons over a short period of time would be an overwhelming challenge for almost anyone without any chronic disease. Accomplishing such a feat while having MS requires spectacular dedication and discipline and inspires all of us to reach for our own goals with more determination." Dr. Jill Conway, Novant Center for Multiple Sclerosis.

Julie has tried several MS medications, but says running is her best medicine. 

“For me, the more I move, the more I exercise, the better I feel,” she said. 

A two-person support team in an RV will follow her and take care of her needs over the week. She’ll sleep in the RV and then be driven to the start point for the next day. Julie expects to do 29 miles a day so she can do a few less miles on the last day when she finishes in Cuyahoga Falls, where family and friends will be waiting.

“I just need to show up at the starting line in one piece and I know I can do it, mentally I can do it, I've put in all the training miles, so my worry is about injury not about if I can do it,” she said.

To learn more about Julie’s journey, click on this link.

You can also follow Julie on Instagram here

This map shows the route she’ll be taking and she hopes those who can will cheer her on from the course. 

Credit: MS Run the US

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