Click here to receive MS news via e-mail
MS and marathons


Tripping, falling and bloody knees.

Been there. Done that. (Who with MS hasn’t)? But this wasn’t me. This was Cheryl Hile and it was happening to her as she was running a half marathon in Carlsbad, California.

Cheryl had been running marathons for half a dozen years when, in 2006, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She says the diagnosis left her “devastated and very scared.” She was also depressed. Cheryl dealt with that depression by continuing to run. But then, after that stumble in Carlsbad, Cheryl’s neurologist told her that it happened because she had foot drop … her right foot was dragging when it should have been lifting. And then the doctor tacked on a suggestion: lower your expectations, she advised.

“That p***ed me off,” Cheryl told Rather than lower her expectations, afosCheryl raised them. Cheryl worked with an orthotist who fit her with a light, durable carbon fiber brace, called an Ankle-Foot Orthotic (AFO).  It held her dropped foot at an angle that would allow her to run.

Since then, Cheryl has completed 30 half marathons, 30 full marathons, and one 30-mile race, all with an AFO on her leg.

And she’s doing more. Cheryl has made it a goal to become the first person with MS to run in seven marathons … on seven continents! And, she plans to do all seven in just one year. Take that, “Doctor No”!!

The first of these seven marathons is taking place in Cape Town, South Africa this coming Sunday and as I write this Cheryl and her husband, who runs alongside her, are packing their bags. After Cape Town comes Buenos Aires in October, Honolulu in December, Antarctica in January, Tokyo in February, Vienna in April, and she plans to finish in Christchurch, New Zealand, in June 2017.

Running slower and looking a bit strange

In addition to foot drop, Cheryl had four exacerbations in one year that left the right side of her body much weaker. At one point she could only lift her right leg an inch off the ground. Cheryl recovered a bit and can now lift that leg about 4-5 inches. She says her foot drop coupled with a weak thigh makes her a much slower runner than she used to be. Cheryl pushes off with the left side of her body and, she says, the right side of her body is basically “along for the ride. I have a funny gait and my right leg swings out, so watch out if you are running next to me!”

It’s more than a marathon for Cheryl

“The primary reason I am doing this journey is to give back to the MS Society,” Cheryl wrote me in an email. “They educated me about the disease and encouraged me to keep moving when I was first diagnosed and depressed. I want to be a role model for newly diagnosed to encourage them to do what they can and to never give up!”

So, on her CrowdRise webpage, where she’s raising funds to cover this expensive journey, there’s a link for direct donations to the National MS Society. Cheryl says that once she’s reached her travel-expense goal, she hopes to raise at least another $10,000 for the Society.

It’s not an inexpensive journey. Cheryl hopes to raise close to $60,000. Her biggest expense will be the marathon in Antarctica — nearly $8,000 per person. “I really do hope I make this fundraising goal,” Cheryl told me. “I am a frugal traveler and I am taking measures to cut costs. For example, we land in Cape Town at 9:45 p.m. Instead of going straight to a hotel for that first night, I am saving money by staying at a cheapo motel across from the airport. … Further, as long as I have a teapot or kettle in my hotel room, I know I can have oatmeal for breakfast and gnocchi for dinner!”

We’ll keep track of Cheryl Hile on The MS Wire and we wish her the best as she constantly pushes those expectations.

[See more of my posts on my personal blog:]

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Tagged .

Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
Click here to receive MS news via e-mail


  1. Lynn says:

    Hi Cheryl! That’s great! Try the Bioness L300. It will lift your foot and bend your knee. If your leg muscles accepts the stimulations it will change your life! It works for me in PT but Medicare won’t cover it for MS YET! Good luck and God bless you and all people with MS

    • Ed TobiasEd Tobias says:

      Hi Lynn,

      Thanks for your comment about the L300. Cheryl didn’t write this story, I wrote it about her and her quest. I’ve sent Cheryl a link so that she can see it and, hopefully, she’ll also read your comment. I’ve used the L300 for several years with mixed results. That’ll probably be the subject of another one of my columns one of these days.


    • Ed TobiasEd Tobias says:

      I’ve found it difficult to position the unit on my leg. Even after five years, or so, it seems as if the best location shifts from day to day. Also, the conductivity between the electrodes and the skin varies with my skin condition, (e.g. dry, just washed, washed with a different soap). So, the amount of lift the L300 provides can vary significantly. I also don’t like the fact that I have to constantly turn it on and off when I sit and stand. Finally, it becomes uncomfortable to wear after a few hours. So, it’s off my leg more than it’s on.

      That said, using the L300 allows me to walk much further, and with less fatigue, than I could walk without it. I really appreciate it if I have to walk more than 50 feet.It also allows me to go up and down an incline.

      MS is such an individually unique disease, however, what works, or doesn’t, for me may not be the same for you.

      Good luck with your PT.

      • Lynn says:

        I understand. The pads are large and should cover the area needed. I think if you wet them they work better but ask to be sure. Do you have 2 cuffs one to lift the front of your foot and a higher cuff to bend your knee? I think there is also a excerzing mode to work at strengthening the muscles too. I’m going today for my first PT! Thank you! Your article covering this might bring attention to the need and awareness for people using this for MS might convince insurance to get this for us who need it TY

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *