Michelle Murphy is an avid runner. She routinely pounds the pavement through the neighborhoods of Albany, NY. When she needs a change of pace, she runs on the path through the park that skirts the Hudson River. Michelle even hoofs it to and from the gym.
You’d never guess that the 24-year-old has Myotonic muscular dystrophy.
Now, about a year after her diagnosis, she’s fundraising for a cure by running the Chicago Marathon with Team Momentum, the MDA’s endurance training team that helps people train for half or full marathons while supporting kids and adults living with muscular dystrophy.
“I love it. Ever since I was diagnosed I had wanted to do something about it and raise awareness because it frustrated me that so many people haven’t even heard of it,” she says of myotonic muscular dystrophy. “I didn’t even know about it until my sister was diagnosed before me.”
Extremely active and showing no symptoms at the time, Michelle only found out about her condition when she was considering becoming an egg donor for her sister and got tested. Her diagnosis was a shock.
“I didn’t prepare myself really at all. I just assumed I didn’t have it because I didn’t really have any symptoms,” Michelle says.
Now, a year later, if she grips something really tightly — like when unscrewing a stubborn water bottle cap or prying the stuck lid off a jam jar — her hands freeze up. One of the symptoms of myotonic muscular dystrophy is difficulty with voluntarily relaxing muscles.
“I try not to focus on what might happen in the future, but it really scares me to think that someday I might not be able to run,” she says. “I don’t really know because it’s different for everyone. The disease progresses in different ways. I could have only this hand symptom for the rest of my life. That might be it, but you never know.”
She’s been a runner since middle school. For her, running is liberating. Working up a sweat washes her stress away. So the day after her diagnosis, Michelle went out on a long, fast run on her usual route. She was pumped. Michelle was determined to do something about her disease.
After running her first full marathon last October, Michelle set her sights on running a major marathon, like the Boston Marathon, while fundraising for charity.
“I started looking into what charities would benefit myotonic dystrophy and I found MDA encompassed that,” she says. “Then when I found Team Momentum, it was a dream come true.”
Team Momentum has become family to Michelle. She’s gone out on training runs with the team and attended the Boston Marathon, where they cheered for the runners from the sidelines.
“It’s so nice knowing that there are so many other people who care about the same thing as I do — raising money and awareness for all muscle-debilitating diseases, not just myotonic muscular dystrophy,” she says. “It’s just really amazing to see their passion.”
For her training, Michelle is running about 25 miles a week now. She’ll top off at 40 miles a week this summer.
“It gives me a focus and something to put my energy into, rather than just worrying about what might happen,” she says. “It’s kind of like a treatment for me. The training and the hard work and the dedication and of course the feeling that I just enjoy running — for me it’s fun.”
Michelle’s passion, hard work and dedication haven’t gone unnoticed. With plenty of time to spare, she’s already raised nearly $1,700 for the MDA, which is just about halfway to her ultimate goal of $4,000.
But hitting that fundraising goal and that Chicago finish line in October doesn’t mean Michelle is finished with Team Momentum.
“I’ve met a lot of people through this whole thing. It’s evolved into something that I never would have expected,” she says of Team Momentum. “It’s like a second family and I would love to get involved in more events, but I definitely see myself with Team Momentum for a long time.”
Join Michelle and change the lives of millions of Americans affected by muscle disease.