Running a “Myelin” Cheryl’s Shoes

Running a “Myelin” Cheryl’s Shoes - Image

When you use the phrase “walk a mile in my shoes,” you’re asking someone to try and relate to the experiences that you are going through. The experience is usually painful, challenging, or difficult. The idea is that if they try to visualize your experience, they’ll have a better understanding and more empathy for your experiences.

Cheryl Hile, instead, asks people to run a mile in her shoes. She’s a runner that lives with multiple sclerosis and enjoys running marathons. In fact, she has organized a team of runners with MS that she’s named Run A Myelin My Shoes or RAMMS.

Cheryl, already a runner, was devastated with an MS diagnosis in 2006. She was worried that MS would eventually take away her ability to run, so she continued to run. With the support of her husband, Brian, Cheryl began treatment right away, but also continued pushing herself to run. This, however, led to tripping and falling.

Cheryl’s neurologist said she was experiencing foot drop, which is a common symptom of MS. Additionally, her right side, including her right leg, began to feel heavy and just didn’t work as well as it had before her diagnosis. The neurologist told her to lower her expectations, which did not sit well with her. Her own determination would not allow Cheryl to admit defeat.

She went to see an orthotist and was fitted with a SpryStep ankle-foot orthosis or AFO. The AFO allowed Cheryl to get back to running without the risk of tripping and falling. Within two months of receiving her first AFO she was racing again. This time it was the Boston Marathon! “There’s no way I’d be able to run even one mile without my AFO,” Cheryl says.

The ability to keep running helped Cheryl to cope when her MS progressed. She worked through different treatment protocols and even changed neurologists before finding a treatment that helped her to feel like her disease was under control.

That’s when Cheryl got the idea to be the first person with MS to run a marathon on each of the seven continents. And that’s just what she did, with Brian by her side for each mile of the 26.2 miles seven times over. After they finished those, they added one more marathon for good measure. National Geographic had announced that New Zealand and Australia are technically two separate continents, so the Hiles had to add an eighth marathon to be able to complete one on each continent.

Her journey has inspired other people with MS and has given them hope. That’s when Cheryl formed her international MS running support team, Run A Myelin My Shoes. Their goal is to support each other as athletes living with MS. The support team meets once a year at a running/walking event where they spread awareness of the disease and encourage others not to give up.

Cheryl describes that without her running, her diagnosis would have caused her to fall apart. Running is something that contributes to her well-being and Cheryl tries to hold onto this. Brian works hard to help Cheryl continue to run. “She’s my best friend,” he says. “Whatever support I can provide, I’m always going to do that for her. Running is the one thing, I think, that was a connection to the time before she had MS.”

Cheryl’s determination is infectious. She says her mantra is to do what she can and to never give up. That’s the hope she gives other people with MS, as well as the positive energy she lives with every day.