Regan Zuege never allowed her battle with MS to stop her from running circles around her dreams.
ByRegan Zuege, Photo by Malcolm Villanueva
In October 2020, I applied to be a team member on a 19-person coast-to-coast relay team for MS Run the US, a nonprofit that uses the annual relay to raise funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis (MS). Each segment is a solo-run endeavor, spanning five to eight days depending on distance, and individual runners commit to fundraising at least $10,000.
At the time of my application the farthest I had run without stopping was only 4 miles, but I felt a strong pull to be bold and do something outside of my comfort zone. I convinced Ashley Schneider, the nonprofit’s director, to give me a spot on the team. Something inside me made me believe I could do the training and successfully run 178 miles over seven days. I made her believe it too.
I’ve never let my own personal six-year battle with MS limit me, and this would be no exception. So June 2 through 8 I ran from Denver to Wray, Colorado.
I still haven’t fully processed my journey, and I’m not sure I ever will. When my kids are older, I can’t wait to tell them all about it. I’ve never felt more proud and more humbled all at once. I challenge you to think of something on your bucket list, a big dream, or even a small but meaningful task you’ve been putting off. What’s the first step? I dare you to take it.
Start before you’re ready.
Everyone puts dreams and lofty goals on the backburner because timing never feels right. “When the kids are older…when I’m less busy…when (fill in the blank) finally happens, then I will…” Nope. There will never be a perfect time when the clouds part and you feel like now is the time. Life happens and keeps happening, so start now and start small. As a full-time working mom with two toddlers, time is something I don’t have much of, but I made time because I knew this opportunity would change my life and the lives of others. My first real running goal was a half-marathon. I started with that and built from there. What could your first mini goal be to help you get to your final destination?
Truth is I have been a lifelong hater of running. I would figure out ways to avoid running the mile at school and even during workout classes as an adult. I hated it because it was hard and uncomfortable for me. So I started with walk-run intervals when I first began running for fitness and built from there. I’ve learned the art of discipline and found it extremely rewarding to embrace the uncomfortable moments as opportunities to grow and improve. If you feel intimidated and unsure, lean in, because I can guarantee you will learn and grow from the experience even if it doesn’t pan out exactly how you plan it.
Attitude is everything.
I decided before my feet even hit the pavement that I would choose joy every step of the way. I’ve learned through my battle with MS that I could use setbacks as springboards. MS has given me so much perspective in life, and I don’t take much for granted. I carried that into my 178-mile run, and even though I endured narrow highway shoulders, an intense sunburn, daily widespread heat rash, fatigue, blisters on my feet and sore muscles, I continued to tell myself, “If this is the worst thing that happens to me, I’ll be okay!” It wasn’t about how tough I was; it was about finding joy even in the hardest moments and choosing positivity and faith above all else.
It’s okay to walk.
I had to humble myself and stop comparing my journey to those of my teammates, many of whom were no stranger to ultra-marathons and long-distance running. About 25% of my total mileage was walked. I knew to make it to the end I would need to slow down and listen to my body. Your journey to accomplish your own goals won’t look like anyone else’s, so don’t compare stats and social media posts to someone else who has already gone before you and accomplished something similar. Take things as slow as you need to. It’s not a race. You just need to get to the finish line.
Cultivate an encouraging community.
I never realized how many people were “my people” until I ventured into this wild journey. I received donations from more than 200 individuals and families, totaling $27,310. I’ve had friends lay their hands on me and pray for me. I’ve received messages from long-lost friends and even a girl who once bullied me in high school. I’ve been so encouraged by my friends, family, coworkers, church community and complete strangers. The more vulnerable I was during my journey, the more people I heard from. I have a community of encouragers that believed in me even more than I believed in myself. Ultimately, that made all the difference.