Running one marathon in a lifetime is a lofty goal for many. Dawn Kumlien has her sights set on completing five marathons in five days.
Ms. Kumlien, 25, of Cranberry, will take her first steps Aug. 18 in Youngstown, Ohio, on a journey to run a total of 128.09 miles to reach Clearfield, Pa., on Aug. 22.
She is taking part in the MS Run the US-2013 Relay, which began April 15 in Los Angeles and will finish Sept. 6 in New York City.
Sixteen participants have been selected to run the equivalent of approximately a marathon -- 26.2 miles -- each day for their assigned segment of the relay. The number of days varies with each runner. The 145-day effort hopes to raise $500,000 to help cure multiple sclerosis.
Ms. Kumlien is running on behalf of her mother, Jill Kumlien, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1980.
"I've grown up watching someone who used to be able to play her guitar, sing, ride horses and water ski and not be able to do that stuff anymore," she said. "I knew that my mom would never be able to run again, so I figured I would put myself through a little bit of mental and physical pain for a week and give back to people that have that disease and try to raise awareness and money."
MS Run the US Inc. was founded in 2009 by her sister, Ashley Kumlien, 29, of Brookfield, Wis. She created the nonprofit organization to raise national awareness of the disease as well as funds to further MS research. All proceeds from the run support research through the National MS Society.
Ashley Kumlien completed the organization's first transcontinental crossing in 2010. She began her 3,288-mile journey across America -- on foot -- on March 22 of that year in San Francisco and finished Sept. 28 in New York City.
It was while running across the country that she came up with the concept of organizing a relay run across America.
"I was given this love of running at a very early age, and then I also have a mom that's been living with a disease that takes away from her abilities to move, so combining those things together is a huge commitment," she said. "I'm very passionate about it and I love doing it. I can't imagine doing anything else."
This is the first year for the relay. Ashley Kumlien, who has been on the road with the runners since April, said so far all of them have completed their goals. The participants are emotionally and personally invested, she said, and some have told her that participating in the relay has changed their lives for the better.
Ashley Kumlien said she is excited to be with her sister while she runs.
"As an older sister, I am so proud of how much she's grown in order to participate in this event," she said. "I told her I'm not going to give you any leeway since you are my sister. I'll probably be more hard on you because I know you and I love you."
Dawn Kumlien has been preparing for her leg of the relay since November. She ran 21 miles a few weeks ago, her longest run ever, and said she felt good.
"I'm confident that when Aug. 18 rolls around, I'll be ready for this," she said.
She ran cross-country in high school and has run three half-marathons to date. But her first full marathon will be Aug. 18, when she takes up her leg of the relay.
Cheering her on will be her sister, her father and, of course, her mother.
"My mother is absolutely amazing. If you talk to her for five minutes, you end up falling in love with her. She's just very positive and is always smiling," she said. "She thanks God every day that she's still here and can still do the things that she can."
For more information: www.msruntheus.com/dawnkumlien.
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.