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How Can You Run a Marathon with MS? Ask Jennifer Pevec

Jennifer Pevec and her husband after a marathon
Jennifer Pevec and her husband after a marathon

In 2004, Jennifer Pevec was a force to be reckoned with. A working mom of two, she was a highly-successful marketing executive in an industry where 50-to 60-hour work weeks were the norm. On top of that, she figured she would start training for a marathon.

It was during her second marathon that Pevec began to realize that the exhaustion and numbness she was feeling couldn’t be attributed to runner’s fatigue. “About two kilometres from the finish line, I just lost control of the right side of my body and started stumbling every couple of steps and feeling a lot of pain,” she says. “I managed to cross the finish line, but I knew something was really wrong.”

I was pretty much told I would never run again.

Never say never

Jennifer receiving an infusion treatment.
Jennifer receiving an infusion treatment

In April of 2005, an MRI confirmed the diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS. “I was shocked and devastated,” Pevec recalls. “I didn’t know much about MS, and what I did know wasn’t good. I was expected to be in a wheelchair within five years. The most frustrating part was that I was pretty much told I would never run again.”

Always one to face a problem head-on, she informed her neurologist that she would do whatever was necessary to take control of the disease and get back in the race. “It’s a very personal decision how you treat your MS,” she says. “Some people stick with the first medication they try. But it’s always been my way to throw everything I can at a problem.”

And with every passing year, there were new things to throw at the disease. MS treatment is a rapidly-evolving field with rapidly-improving outcomes. “With young people who are diagnosed now, I spend a lot of time talking about how their prognosis is much better than it used to be,” notes Dr. Virginia Devonshire. “I encourage them not to have in their mind a vision of a walker or a wheelchair because these things are quite uncommon now.”

Treatment paving the road to Boston

Jennifer running the Hamilton Marathon
Jennifer running the Hamilton Marathon

With regular treatment, Pevec was running marathons by 2010, though now with carbon-fibre leg braces. She even qualified for the Boston Marathon, the runners’ Holy Grail, in the mobility-impaired category. Her current treatment is comprised of two to three rounds of infusions. Even with this treatment, Pevec’s MS isn’t gone. Some days she can’t go running and some days the pain and fatigue are so bad she can’t get out of bed, but her MS has stabilized and she has her life back.

Today, Pevec is training for her sixth Boston Marathon, to be held on April 15th of this year. It will be her 16th marathon and the 14th since her diagnosis. Through her running and other activities, Pevec and her husband have raised $90,000 for the MS Society of Canada. She hopes to make it an even $100,000 by the end of 2020. Jennifer Pevec is still a force to be reckoned with.  

This article was made possible with support from a Canadian pharmaceutical research company.

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