Monday, September 21, 2015

Local architect battles 50 miles in support of MS - By Michelle Libby

Local business woman Emily Mottram is a little tired and understandably so after walking 50 miles to raise money at the 14th annual Challenge Walk for Multiple Sclerosis this past weekend on Cape Cod. The event raised $762,412 so far and donations are still rolling in. 
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects over 2.3 million people worldwide. It is a disease that effects the fatty substance that covers and insulates the nerves, the myelin. The damage forms scar tissue (sclerosis). “When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms,” according to the National MS Society. The progression is usually slow and symptoms are often misdiagnosed or passed off as inconveniences, said Mottram. “The symptoms of MS are different, and for some devastating, for everyone - the only certainty is that it will affect yet another person every hour of every day.”

Mottram became involved in the event three years ago after her best friend from college, Steve O’Brien, was diagnosed with MS. He had blurry vision and went to the eye doctor thinking he needed glasses. What came next was a diagnosis of MS. At 33 years old, he walks the 50 miles with the team that bears his name – Steve Battles the Demyelination Robots. The minimum amount an individual can raise before walking is $1,500. The five member team raised over $10,000. 

The money raised goes toward research, the majority of which is done in Boston, and for people and families by helping to purchase wheelchairs, for doctors’ appointments and in-home care, Mottram said. 

The walking event began on the green in Hyannis, Mass. Following a railroad trail that is now a bike path, the teams walk 20 miles on Friday, 20 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday. The final half mile takes place back at the green in Hyannis and those with MS and the walkers all join together to finish at the same time. The event had 400 or more walkers and 200 volunteers.

Mottram did an 18-week training schedule, but said that the best work she did to prepare were squats and lifting weights. “I had less pain and soreness,” she said. “Marathon runners often say the weight training is more important than running five miles a day. Nothing you do makes miles 37 to 41 any easier. The last miles on Saturday after lunch are excruciating.” 

There were sponsored stops along the way about every two or three miles with first aid, snacks, drinks and porta-potties. 

Mottram and the team finished 20 miles including lunch in seven and a half hours. In the evenings there were speakers, dinner and activities. “After you walk 20 miles you’re brain dead,” she said. Focusing on the speakers was hard work. 

“It’s a lot of walking, but when you are out on the course, with all the other supporters of a cause that you feel so dedicated to, it’s a beautiful three days.  Even when your body hurts and you can't keep your eyes open for another moment, it's a happy smile that crosses your face,” Mottram said.

“People in wheelchairs thank you for walking. This is [Steve’s] reality in the future if they don’t come up with anything to help,” she said. She will continue to walk to help in the fight.

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