National MS Awareness Month: Q&A with Cheryl Hile

March is National MS Awareness Month, and to commemorate the important occasion, we’ve been focusing on getting a better idea of what life is like with multiple sclerosis.

We’ve heard from a number of athletes with MS that chemical-free cooling apparel like Dr. Cool’s can help alleviate some of the overheating issues that they experience, which encouraged us to raise awareness both this Month and year-round.

Three of our ambassadors, Marisol Beigert, Lindy Haaglund, and Cheryl Hile, all have the disease and must go to extra lengths in order to train for and compete in events. This time, we connected with Cheryl to gain some insight as to how MS affects her in particular, and how she finds the drive and the motivation to overcome it.

Cheryl Hile is a runner from San Diego, who has completed 48 marathons and 50 half marathons. She was diagnosed with MS in 2006, but hasn’t let that slow her down. She is currently planning to be the first person with MS to run a marathon on each continent, all in 12 months! She has been featured in publications like, Women’s Running Magazine, and Boeing Classic Golf Tournament Magazine. Her mantra of “I do what I can and never give up” has pushed her to accomplish her goals despite her diagnosis!

Q: How does MS affect your performance as an athlete?

Cheryl: One of my MS symptoms is called foot drop. The electrical impulse from my brain to my foot is compromised. Consequently, my foot fatigues quickly, it drags, and I trip and fall when running. I have an amazing orthotist who makes carbon fiber ankle foot orthotics (AFO) for me. The device inserts into my shoe and holds my foot up so that I no longer trip and fall when I run!

However, since my right foot is in a stationary position, most of my running is propelled by my left leg. My right leg is just along for the ride. Furthermore, I have had several exacerbations that left my entire right leg weak. All this contributes to being a slower runner.

But at least I never gave up and found a way to keep doing the sport I love! Since 2008, I have completed 30 half marathons, 30 full marathons and one 30-mile race with an AFO strapped to my leg!

Q: In what ways do you address those affects when preparing for a race or an event?

Cheryl: I address foot drop with the AFO, but I do have issues with heat, too. In general, nerves don’t conduct well in the heat, and it’s worse for people with MS because the lesions in the brain and spinal column impede electrical impulses.

It takes more energy to reroute the signals. I really slow down when it’s hot, so I do most of my training runs on a treadmill with fans all over me. Or my husband and I will go for a long run starting at 5:00 AM.

When race day comes, and if it’s going to be hot, I just have to realize I’ll be slower. In my mind, there is no option to quit. I am new to Dr. Cool and I’m excited to see how I perform in a hot weather race with Coolcore!

Q: What are your goals for 2016?

Cheryl: I have set a goal to be the first person with MS to run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 12 months! My adventure starts with the Cape Town Marathon in September, followed by Buenos Aires in October and Honolulu in December. In 2017, I have Antarctica in January, Tokyo in February, London in April and Christchurch, New Zealand in June. At least that is the plan for now—I have to do a lot of fund raising to make this dream a reality!

You can follow Cheryl’s progress on her mission to run 7 marathons on 7 continents on her website or right here on the Dr. Cool blog! You can also help her reach her epic goal by donating to her fundraising campaign on her CrowdRise page!