Written By Mark Campbell, Tana’s Son
I was nervous…extremely nervous. I wanted to offer my mother an experience that she never had. Personally, I enjoy running; particularly, I enjoy running long distances. And I wanted to run a long distance with my mother. But how do you ask someone who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS) to run a half marathon when they have trouble walking from the car to the grocery store? How do you convince someone with MS to believe that they can run in a race when they can’t stand unaided for more than a couple of minutes? Eventually, I got up the nerve to ask my mother if she would let me push her in a wheelchair while I ran a half marathon (13.1 miles). At this moment, more than any other moment in the entire timeline of events, I was the most nervous. I was scared that my mother would laugh at me. Or maybe she would roll her eyes and say, “That’s a stupid idea!” or “We can’t do that.” Imagine my surprise when, without hesitation, my mother said, “Yes, let’s do it!”
This is not the first time that my mother has shocked me. Throughout my whole life she made me proud, amazed and inspired. But this was an enormous challenge for her. There were so many questions: Can she tolerate the ride? Can she tolerate the length of time? Can she tolerate the weather conditions? Will she enjoy herself? Will she regret doing this? Will her painful leg spasms return from the jostling of running? I had to remind myself that this is my mother and she has shown me time and time again that no matter the test she would prevail.
We targeted a half marathon that was local (Raleigh, NC) for us. I sent an email to the race director asking him if he would allow us to participate. He welcomed us with open arms and asked if there was anything he could do to help. This was a tremendous weight off my mind as I envisioned some lawyer-speak about, “blah, blah, liability, blah, blah, insurance regulations, blah, blah, doctor’s note.” I wouldn’t have blamed him if he turned us away….well maybe I would blame him a little bit. Fortunately, we no longer had to worry about that. Now we had roughly three months to plan and organize our experience.
The first order of business was to pick a charity. The decision was made immediately. Mom chose the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA). She said they have been so good to her, and the thought of giving back to them gave her a great sense of worth. We contacted MSAA and with their help created a donation page.
Then we blitzed our family, friends and business contacts for donations to MSAA in mom’s honor. Without a doubt, our best source of fundraising was through Facebook. Within a couple of days of promoting our event on Facebook, we received $3,000 in donations. People were so excited for us and they showed that with not only their donations but also their words of encouragement. We eventually were able to raise over $4,500 for MSAA, and that is our greatest accomplishment through this whole process. We even had three running friends ask to join us during the race. Mom and I just could not believe how this event was moving people, many of whom we didn’t really know.
The last thing was to figure out how to make Mom as comfortable as possible during the run. We are fortunate enough to know the owner of a local medical supply store. He loaned us the use of a great wheelchair that had more padding than a standard chair, could recline to numerous positions and had a single handlebar for pushing. It was the perfect chair for both of us. The planning was done. The only thing left was waiting for race day.