Cranberry woman, sister step up to battle MS

| Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 6:05 p.m.

Dawn Kumlien will run her first marathon Aug. 18. Then she'll run about four more after that.

Kumlien, 25, of Cranberry is running 128 miles Aug. 18-22 from Youngstown to Clearfield as part of the MS Run the US 2013 Relay to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis research.

She is one of 16 runners participating in the relay, which started in Los Angeles on April 15 and ends in New York City on Sept. 6. MS Run the US is a nonprofit founded by Dawn's older sister, Ashley Kumlien, in 2009.

Their mother, Jill Kumlien, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1980, before they were born.

Dawn Kumlien said her mother used to water ski, ride horses and play guitar and piano, but she never saw that side of her.

“Even though I didn't get to know that woman that was adventurous, I'm still grateful I got to know the woman she is now,” Kumlien said. “Either way, she's a very positive person.”

For the nonprofit's first major fundraiser, Ashley Kumlien, 29, ran more than 3,200 miles from San Francisco to New York City in 2010. She said she raised $60,000 in her solo run, which inspired her to organize the nonprofit's first cross-country relay this year.

Each runner had to apply, interview with Ashley, and promise to raise $10,000 to receive a spot on the roster. The fundraising goal is $500,000.

“Dawn had to apply, and I told her that she wasn't going to be treated any differently,” Ashley said.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, said Hannah Spears, development coordinator for the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. More than 7,500 people in the chapter's 26 counties have the disease.

There is no known cause or cure for MS, Spears said, but charities such as MS Run the US are critical to funding research for a cure.

“That's how it's going to happen, through dedication and passion from people like Ashley and Dawn,” Spears said.

Dawn Kumlien said she has been training for the relay since November 2012 and is excited to begin her segment. She said her longest distance run in training has been 22 miles; she's saving her first full 26.2-mile run for her first leg of the relay on Aug. 18.

“I feel that God has given me the tools and support system that I've been able to train,” Dawn said. “I know it's a little bit crazy that I haven't even run it yet, but it's more special to say that my very first marathon was part of this relay.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or

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