Jennifer and Mark Williams
Jennifer Williams picked a heck of a summer to train for her first marathon. To overcome record high temperatures and humidity that might deter less committed runners, she rises early and applies lessons she’s learned from her husband, Mark, to push through her training regimen. “I channel the strength and focus that Mark uses to complete everyday tasks when I train. The physical and mental challenges I face in running 26.2 miles are nothing compared to the daily challenges Mark faces living with CFS for these past 20 years.”
Jen’s marathon goal not only strikes one item from her personal “bucket list,” it is raising funds for research. Jennifer and Mark have reached out to family and friends through CrowdRise, asking them to cheer Jennifer on by donating to the CFIDS Association’s research program. She set – and quickly met – a goal to raise $1,000. Now she’s shooting for $2,620 ($100 for each mile she will run!) by the time of the Oct. 7, 2012 race in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Mark longs to train with his wife. He became ill two decades ago while overseas as part of his collegiate training for the Navy. Over the years he’s seen a variety of doctors who have run many, many tests that reveal abnormalities in multiple body systems. Treatments help lessen some symptoms but his energy and stamina are limited and unpredictable. Sensory overload and post-exertional malaise make it hard to plan outings and recovery from activity requires long periods of rest. Still, the couple feels blessed that Mark isn’t fully bedridden like other people with CFS.
Their decision to dedicate Jen’s run to the CFIDS Association came after attending a Dec. 2011 gathering in Chicago where they heard CEO Kim McCleary speak about the organization’s narrowed focus on research. “It was a wonderful event where we learned first-hand about this new focus, research currently in progress, and some of the outcomes. Mark and I were truly encouraged that researchers are closer than ever to discovering those significant findings that will ultimately result in identifying the cause, diagnosis and cure for CFS,” Jen recalls.
Sharing Mark’s diagnosis openly with a larger group of friends and family was the most difficult part of the decision to dedicate proceeds to the Association. Ultimately, Mark felt it was worth the questions it might raise from people who previously knew only he had ongoing health problems that started with an infection he got while serving in the military. He wrote to friends, “I don't normally share a lot of stuff about my own health issues, but if my wife is going to run 26.2 miles to try to raise funds for research, I figure it's the least I can do to help spread the word. Don't let the stupid name that the CDC picked out years ago fool you. It can be very debilitating. Please help her out (and also help me out) if you can.”
Mark hopes to be at the finish line on Oct. 7 when Jen completes her first marathon. Maybe someday they’ll cross the finish line together.
Visit Jen’s fundraising page on CrowdRise: http://bit.ly/RAhv8B
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