The World’s Longest Running Relay Benefits MS in 2021
The autumn before my MS diagnosis, I participated in the PDX to Coast Walk Relay. It’s the walking person’s equivalent of the more impressive Hood to Coast Relay Race, which involves runners taking off from the top of Mt. Hood and ending up at sea level on the Pacific coast at Seaside, Oregon.1
I recently learned about the MS Run the US Ultra Relay and I’m amazed. The Oregon relay may be the Mother of all Relays because it attracts people from all around the world, but the MS Run the US Ultra Relay involves just 19 athletes who traverse the entire United States, running the whole way.1
Best of all, it supports MS awareness and research funding.
What’s MS Run the US?
This is the world’s longest running relay. Each member of the hand-selected team of 19 runners commits to running six marathons as part of a relay spanning 3,260 miles—from Santa Monica to New York City.
This year’s MS Run the US Ultra Relay begins with segment 1 on Friday, April 9, 2021 and is slated for completion by segment 19 on Friday, August 20, 2021.
How it works
Ultra Relay crews in cars and RVs follow each runner as they take on their segment, which lasts between six and eight days and measures about 160 miles long.
When the runner finishes their segment, they pass their baton on to the next runner, who continues the relay until the next checkpoint. This happens 19 times to complete the relay.
In 2021, you can track their runners through daily Facebook Live videos posting Ultra Relay progress. You can also find collections of event photos and stories on their Instagram and Facebook channels.2
Believe it or not, the event—which first began ten years ago—was run by a single person.
At age 25, Ashley Schneider founded the event and turned it into a 501(c)3 nonprofit literally from her bedroom. Her mother was her chief inspiration, having been diagnosed with MS four years before Ashley was born.
For the first MS Run event, Ashley ran 24 miles a day, six days a week, over six months’ time in 2010, completing the race on September 28. For that effort, she raised $50,000 — a fantastic sum, yet only 10 percent of her goal.
Meanwhile, she burned through 11 pairs of shoes, ran across 13 states, crossed three mountain ranges, and earned the distinction as the 16th female to run across the US, miraculously suffering only two blisters.
Unfazed by her fundraising totals, Ashley launched the MS Run the US race again — this time as an Ultra Relay. She recruited a team of segment runners. In 2014, they accomplished the $500,000 fundraising goal she’d initially reached for with her first solo run.
Ashley, now executive director of MS Run the US, has raised over $2.3 million “to provide hope, to aid those living with disability from the disease and to support research to stop it.”3
The MS Run the US mission
Their mission has a trifecta of objectives:
- Raise awareness about MS. The struggles MS brings are many and diverse. The complexity of the disease also makes it a challenge for doctors to understand and treat.
- Provide financial assistance for people with MS. There’s an ongoing need for money to cover the costs of expensive medical devices, home modifications, and other aids to bring relief and independence to people with MS.
- Generate research funding. MS demands better treatments, solutions for reversing disease, and preventive measures. These require extensive research to achieve. Two recipients of funding include the Wahls Therapeutic Lifestyle Fund and research projects led by Dr. Jacob Sosnoff.4
How you can help
- Volunteer. If you live near a relay location, consider helping by cooking, providing housing, doing laundry, and providing transportation. The relay calendar identifies where and when your state’s segment will pass through.5 The relay spans California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.6
- Become an ambassador. Do you like to raise awareness, raise funds, engage with people, or support other aspects of this mission? Both individuals and teams can serve in this capacity.7
- Buy merchandise. The MS Run the US Store reopens on April 19.8
- Find a runner! Marathoners looking for a challenge with a good cause behind it are invited to apply. Maybe you’re that person! Or maybe you know someone who would love to take part in this epic event. Prospective team runners commit to raising $10,000 each; they’re provided fundraising advice, support, and a program to get that ball rolling. Interested? Apply at the website; this year’s team is complete, but there’s always 2022.9
- Donate. It’s as simple as writing a check or clicking a button.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We want to check in. How are you feeling?