Hile has been running marathons since 2000 and was diagnosed with MS in 2006. The disease has caused her to experience a decrease in energy and endurance, an inability to lift her legs far off the ground and numbness in her arms and hands.
Following her diagnosis, she continued running as a distraction and a way to pull herself out of depression. After completing a few races she began tripping and falling even ending the Carlsbad Half Marathon with bloody knees. Hile learned soon after that she had a common symptom of MS called foot drop. This causes her foot to go limp, and as Hile described it, simply be along for the ride.
“My neurologist told me to lower my expectations for running,” Hile said. “That pissed me off. I’m stubborn. I love running and I don’t want to give it up. I know I eventually will have to, but I want it to be on my own terms.”
Instead of giving up, Hile went to an orthotist who developed a carbon fiber ankle-foot orthotic to keep her dropped foot at an an angle and prevent her from tripping.
“Since 2008, I have run more than 30 marathons with this brace strapped to my leg,” Hile said. “I have completed 49 marathons since 2000. Thirteen before MS, four painful marathons before my brace and 32 with a brace. So, I have completed 36 post diagnosis.”
After being diagnosed, Hile went through a period of depression. She attributes her growth and success to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which helped her find motivation and inspiration to keep doing what she loved.
“I’ve always wanted to do something big for the MS community and all they have done for me,” Hile said. “My husband Brian and I love to travel and we love to run marathons, so the idea to run seven marathons on seven continents in a 12 month period was born.”
Hile has selected her marathons based on scheduling and adequate rest time in between. She will begin her journey in Cape Town, South Africa in September followed by Buenos Aires in October, Honolulu in December, Antarctica in January, Tokyo in February, Vienna in April and she will finish in Christchurch, Germany in June 2017.
“I am most excited, but also most nervous for Antartica,” Hile said. “Extreme weather can cause my symptoms to flare up.”
Another challenge facing Hile is the cost of travel. Her husband runs alongside her in every race in case her symptoms act up and she needs assistance standing, opening energy packets or drinking water. They have to pay for both of them to fly around the world and run in the marathons. To fund this journey they have started a CrowdRise page and have also been generously gifted flights, hotel rooms and entry fees by a variety of companies.
Once Hile has reached her travel funding goal, she hopes to raise at least $10,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. On her CrowdRise website, Hile asks that those who donate, who have also been diagnosed with MS, identify themselves. She plans to write their names on her shirts and symbolically run for them as well.
“My message is to do what you can and never give up,” Hile said. “You don’t have to run seven marathons, but maybe you could begin by trying to move for seven minutes a day. I don’t think anyone should ever have to lower their expectations.”
Want to help?
To help Cheryl Hile reach her fundraising goals and follow her journey visit www.cherylhile.com.