The pandemic notwithstanding, MS Run the US has fielded 18 runners — including eight with multiple sclerosis (MS) — to traverse the United States to raise awareness and funds to support MS research and to aid those living with disability caused by the neurodegenerative disease.
The organization’s Ultra Relay — the nation’s first and only annual cross-country relay run — starts on April 9 in Santa Monica, California.
It ends some 3,260 miles later in New York City.
Since the nonprofit’s first relay in 2013, it has raised more than $2.3 million and has helped everyday runners become fundraisers for MS.
“I ran across America for my mother and felt how that commitment changed my life,” Ashley Schneider, MS Run the US founder and executive director, said in a press release.
“Now MS Run the US hosts the relay so other runners can have the same thing: an opportunity to be empowered amidst the challenges of MS,” she said.
A new Ultra Relay team is chosen each year, with each runner going through an application process that includes a remote interview and an assessment of physical abilities and community commitment. With organization assistance, the runners spend each fall and winter training and fundraising in preparation for a week on the road to finish their six-day 160-mile relay segment. Each runner commits to raising $10,000 during the year.
Each segment — aided by the organization’s road crew — is coordinated back-to-back to facilitate the cross-country run. Financial pledges support the organization’s aim to heighten MS awareness, support MS research, and boost those living with disability. This year, eight of the 18 runners have MS — the most patients in one year.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was uncertain whether the event would even go on this year.
“The pandemic had a tremendous impact on everyone’s wellbeing. We were unsure if we would have a team,” Schneider said. “To my excitement and relief, runners did apply, allowing us to continue fundraising to support research and those affected by MS. We developed a strong COVID-19 policy aimed at keeping everyone healthy, and we are grateful to be able to make this year’s relay happen.”
The way relays are structured does promote safety. Each relay segment includes one runner and two road crew members, with all parties a safe distance apart. So far, this year’s relay team has raised $115,825 and has run 8,910 training miles — an average of 100 miles per runner monthly.
The runners hail from across the U.S., with participants from California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah in the West, and Florida, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania in the East. Representing the country’s heartland are runners from Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. Three of the runners are Texans.
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