North Hills runner to complete 5 marathons in 5 days to benefit MS research
On Christmas two years ago, the Kumlien family decided to take their mother, Jill Kumlien, for a horseback ride.
“It was really nice seeing her be able to get on a horse again, to see her do something she has not been able to do,” said Dawn Kumlien of Ohio Township, Jill's daughter. “Something she thought was a chapter in her life that was forever going to be closed.”
Doctors diagnosed Jill Kumlien, 59, with multiple sclerosis 35 years ago, before Dawn Kumlien was born.
In recent years, Dawn Kumlien, 25, has dedicated many hours raising awareness and money for MS, in honor of her mother. In August, she will participate in the 19th segment of the “MS Run the U.S.,” running 131 miles over five days in parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The “MS Run the U.S.” relay effort is a Kumlien family pursuit. Ashley Kumlien, 27, Dawn's sister, founded the nonprofit behind the race when she became in 2010 the 16th female runner to run across the country. Her run sparked the idea for the relay.
With 21 other runners taking part in the relay, Dawn Kumlien hopes to raise $10,000 for multiple sclerosis research.
“I know I can do this,” Kumlien said, saying mental preparation is her biggest challenge.
“I know that God is going to provide me with the tools and support. Two weeks ago, I was running in hail and rain and snow at the same time; that's difficult. But people with MS, they have bad days, but they don't get to quit so I'm not going to quit.”
To be selected to run one of the five- or six-day segments, runners must submit an application to “MS Run the U.S.” relay. Participants are selected based on their running abilities, community involvement and willingness to promote and fundraise for MS. Dawn Kumlien's application received no special treatment, despite the family ties, Ashley Kumlein said.
“(Dawn) knew that she was going to be held to the same standards as everybody else,” her sister said. “I am extremely proud of her. She does not have a lot of experience in fundraising, and she has done awesome. Her training is taking off, too. I always knew that she was a really skilled runner.”
The first runner will depart from Barstow, Calif. on April 15. Dawn Kumlien will begin her segment on Aug. 18, in Pittsburgh, and will end in Youngstown, Ohio.
Watching her mother's struggles to complete daily tasks and losing her ability to do activities she loves, such as singing and playing guitar, inspires her, she said.
“When you have somebody in your life that you have to watch go through this disease, you want to do everything possible to help them.”
Jill Kumlien will be the final participant in the relay leg, covering 10 miles in New York City on Sept. 6 in an adult stroller pushed by relay runners and anyone else who wants to run with what is being called “Team Jill.”
“She deserves to finish,” Ashley Kumlien said.
Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer.