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Chellie deGelleke trains to run six marathons in six days.

Signing on for six marathons in six days - MS Run the US

In six weeks, Chellie deGelleke will run her first marathon, then five more over consecutive days.

Her push into the MS Run the US relay and a daunting challenge even for experienced runners will sound familiar to other marathon rookies: "She peer-pressured me into it."

That would be Ashley Kumlien, the founder of MS Run the US, and the 28-year-old who expanded upon her own solo run across the country in 2010 in pursuit of contributions to support MS research. That cause, even more than the peer pressure, motivated deGelleke and 16 others around the country to sign on for the relay.

"The passion to do this doesn't come from somebody telling me I have to do it," said deGelleke, a personal trainer with MISPIBO fitness in Milwaukee.

"We have to trust that we're all here for the same reason, serving others through running.

"This is an act of selflessness, for all the people who can't walk or can't run."

For Kumlien, 28, the quest is personal. Her mother, Jill, has lived with multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years, always with a smile and courageous effort, while the disease damages the nerve fibers that control her arms, hands, legs and feet.

"She had a rough summer," Kumlien said. "Frustrating. Worrisome. She's doing better in winter. We try to stay as positive as we can, with what we're given."

At least 2.1 million people worldwide and 10,000 in Wisconsin have MS, according to statistics from the National MS Society, which raises about $214 million per year. The disease strikes women at roughly two to three times of men.

Kumlien fell short of her goal to raise $500,000 on her 3,200-mile run, regrouped, then focused on building an MS Run that would draw more people, attention and money. Each of the 17 runners who joined the team are required to raise at least $10,000.

"Ashley reminds us of how far a daughter's love for her mother can go, said Colleen Kalt, National Multiple Sclerosis Society-Wisconsin Chapter president & CEO. "Whether it's a cross-country relay such as MS Run the US or taking part in Walk MS here in Wisconsin each year, she is honoring her mom in ways that show her own love and support while working to prevent other daughters and mothers from facing the same experiences in the future. She is making a difference."

In return for their pledges, the relay runners get Kumlien's support, the comfort of an RV and the opportunity to run 140 miles in six days.

"People want to do something amazing and huge, they just need the opportunity," Kumlien said. "I am really excited to give these runners an experience that most people don't have."

deGelleke will lead off the relay, starting in Los Angeles on April 15.
Now 26 and living in Wauwatosa, she played soccer in high school in Barrington, Ill., and started to train for a marathon in 2006. She didn't make it to the start line.

To prepare for six marathons in six days, she plans to run 13 miles in the morning and 13 in the afternoon, and has built a training program around that goal. She'll be doing two-a-days for the next several weeks.

"I'm feeling pretty confident now," she said. "I went from being 'so excited I can't wait' to 'holy crap I have to train for this.'

deGelleke draws inspiration and encouragement from the fellow relay runners in exchanges on Facebook, Twitter and via email. Kumlien remains her biggest source of motivation.

"When I first met Ashley, she had just gotten back from her own run," deGelleke said. "The physical demands that took, to have the mentality and to train for it and to execute it, and to build this whole charity and powerful message…it brings me to a moment of silence.

"She's the average American girl. She has this big dream and she's going to get it."

Chellie deGelleke will host a fundraiser on March 10 at Yo Mama frozen yogurt, 1349 N. Wauwatosa Ave., Wauwatosa. A portion of all sales that day will be shared with MS Run the US.


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