Let’s Get to Know … James Koceja!

Hey everyone! Sorry we’ve been a bit off the radar these past two weeks. We’ve been out running, racing and getting to know more runners in the MKE community.

One of the runners we recently met is James Koceja, a new member of Performance Running Outfitter’s Elite Team. His main focus is distances ranging from 8k to the half marathon, although he’s also raced a few marathons. But no matter the distance he is always up for putting it all out there and racing hard.

Read on to learn more about his training, Milwaukee running faves and how coaching high school cross country and track has positively influenced his own running.

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Age: 31

Years running: 17 Years; I started competing and running seriously when I was around 14.

Favorite workout: I like more “grinding” and mentally challenging workouts. One of my ultimate favorites is simply going for a 60- to 75-minute run, starting at a conservative pace and getting down to sub 6-minute pace for the last half of the run. Another all-time favorite is a cut down ladder, such as 1600-1200-1000-800-600-400. I am more of a strength runner as I arguably hate anything below 600’s. I will do them but they are usually on the bottom of the page; the way bottom. I usually tend to just go with the flow of workouts and see what the day brings.

Favorite distance to race: I really enjoy the longer races such as 8k up to the half marathon. I have only done a handful of marathons as I am fairly a rookie when it comes to the 26.2 mile distance. I always try to compete at the best of my ability, enjoying the challenges of competing against myself and others that surround me.

Pre-race routine: I drink coffee (always coffee) and eat a bowl of oatmeal and a banana for breakfast. I always warm up about 45-60 minutes before my race, do some drills, put on my racing flats and prepare myself to compete to the best of my ability.

Favorite post-race treat: Chocolate milk and a banana. Occasionally I will a have a nice adult refreshment afterwards – just depends on how the race goes.

Favorite race shoes: Nike Mayfly, Nike Lunaracer

Significant wins/placings/awards/accolades:

  • 2x Individual Champion Firecracker 10k
  • Individual Champion Talmer Turkey Trot 5k
  • 2x Junior Olympic Qualifier (Cross Country)
  • Three Top Ten Finishes at Lighthouse 10 mile Championships

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Why/How did you start running?

As a young child, running was always something I was exposed to as it was just a natural habit and part of my everyday lifestyle. My father, Richard Koceja, was a highly competitive runner who competed for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and later was selected to run for the Wisconsin Runner racing team earning significant wins and accolades at various race distances and major events. He was also a well-respected coach at Burlington High School, coaching both boys and girls in cross-country and track. From this exposure, I just fell in love with the sport.

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Is there a quote or philosophy that inspires your running and racing?

I have a couple quotes and philosophies that continue to inspire me. One is the wisdom that my father always brings; he is the biggest inspiration that I have and always speaks with so much enthusiasm and positivity. The best advice I have ever gotten from him is to have strong beliefs in my gifts, talents and abilities. If you have strong beliefs in yourself as a competitor then the results remain endless. There is nothing more terrible than the habit of doubt. Doubt weakens and divides your talents and abilities. Once doubt comes into play, it’s over and hard to overcome. “Be tough, think big and get the job done.”

What does a typical training week look like for you?

While training for longer races, I usually run between 50-60 miles a week, doing one or two long runs of 60-75 minutes during the week. I always tell others that there is a huge difference between being in “shape” and being in “race shape”. During the race season I will always try to include some sharpening workouts like intervals, tempos and fartleks. During the school year, it gets a little hard with coaching, and I try to get in early runs to satisfy my mileage. On occasion I will run a workout with the athletes I coach, but I run with them as it’s their workout.

Can you tell us about a workout you do that lets you know you’re ready to race?

I can’t list one specific workout as they are ever changing. I am very laid back when it comes to workouts and intensity. During the week, I will try to do a solid workout on Wednesday, giving me a couple days to recover before a race. An example of this would be a threshold run where I am consistently hitting splits within five seconds of each other. Once I am hitting mile splits around the 5:30 mark, I’m good. I always try to gauge myself on effort and feel. If I feel I am struggling during a planned workout, I will adjust. My best advice is to listen to your body. Pushing your body too much or beyond its capability will sometimes do more damage than good.

Along with your own training and racing, you also coach high school track and cross country. Why did you decide to start coaching? Can you tell us how your own experience helps you help your teams?

Great Question! I decided to get into coaching for a number of reasons; a major reason of which is to help contribute to a sport that has done so much for me, and I figured that I could give back and offer developing athletes a chance to find their own success in the sport. Through watching my father coach and watching other coaches’’ styles and philosophies, I felt that I always had the appropriate tools and mindset to help others. Some of my greatest coaching influences are my father Richard Koceja, Jeff Miller at UW-Whitewater, Matt Dollins, Michael J. Sliwa, Paul Hiegel, Pete Henkes, Richard Dodd, Mike Dewitt, Mike Mulrooney, Tom Scheller, Bill Grieten, Michael Butcher and Wally Bradford. All of these men have very dynamic personalities and philosophies. From an experience standpoint, I always try to develop an appropriate relationship with the student athlete and use my own dynamic personality to help them succeed. I always tell them to not sweat the little stuff and to just focus on their own goals and performance instead of being overwhelmed by the performances of others. I tell them to compete with a one-track mind and avoid a world of stress and confusion. I sometimes have to pull out a past story involving my own running career that may help their situation. I have a whole book of stories as does everyone – some good, some bad.

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What have you learned through coaching? Has it benefitted your own running?

I’ve learned so much! I have been coaching for about 10 years at the high school level and I can honestly tell you that every day I keep learning something new. I feel that at the high school level, athletes seem to stress out about such little things; it’s quite entertaining at times. Sometimes I can’t help but to scratch my head and laugh. At times, I have to reset my mindset and acknowledge that a long time ago I was once a high school athlete, too, and that I do understand (even at times when I really don’t). It’s the little things, like having a down-to-earth conversation, that allow the athlete to become more comfortable and adaptive to your coaching style. Just being around these athletes makes me more aware of the special gift and talents I have in the coaching world and make me that much more grateful for the opportunity to work with so many great athletes. Coaching high school athletes has definitely helped improve my own running, inspiring me to compete at a higher level. If anything, coaching also gives me a great background in sports psychology 🙂

You’re a newer member of Performance Running Outfitter’s Elite Team – how does running as part of a team enhance your running?

I am so grateful that Jessica and Trae Hoepner offered me this opportunity to compete on the PRO Elite Team this year. I believe that running as part of a team is a huge component that can automatically enhance your own abilities and performances. I feel that teammates are very crucial and can help propel you further. Through positive feedback, I have heard many great things about Performance Running Outfitters and I am very fortunate and grateful to have the opportunity to promote this outstanding organization. Big shout outs to my new teammates, including Jessica Hoepner, Trae Hoepner, Jackie Giacalone, Andy Ruffalo, Matt Barcus, Kyle Fraser, Richard Dodd, James Daul, Angie Kaiser, Cameron Ausen, Ben Garbe, Nathan Lanser and Mac Laksa.

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?

I would just like to continue to use my gifts and talents to the best of their abilities and continue to contribute to a sport that has done so much for me. To put it bluntly, my goal is to kick some butt in whatever races I decide to run.

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What are your favorite Milwaukee races?

I really enjoyed competing at Al’s Run. I’ve only participated in the event once. From my experience, I was overwhelmed at the amount of support and encouragement that the city of Milwaukee brought to this meaningful event. I remember jogging to that starting line on Wisconsin Avenue thinking “This is freaking amazing.” I also really enjoyed competing at the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival as race director Chris Ponteri did a truly outstanding job managing the event.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?

I often enjoy the scenic views of Grant Park in South Milwaukee or Eastown Tosa. My girlfriend resides in Oak Creek, so I am always extremely eager to venture off and discover new areas to run. Be back in half an hour? Yeah … right.

What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?

Milwaukee is truly a great community. Everyone is so welcoming. I have been very flattered and humbled by the amount of support and positive encouragement throughout this community. You can meet so many outstanding people and interact with a community of runners that seek enjoyment in fulfilling their passion for the sport of running.

Any other comments?

Thank you for the interview. I am truly grateful to have this opportunity. A very special thanks to Jessica and Trae Hoepner for allowing me to contribute to PRO Elite by becoming a new member.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, James! If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

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Join PRO’s Run Club in 2016!

Need a little extra motivation to run this year? Performance Running Outfitters makes running even more fun with its new PRO Run Club!

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Here’s how it works: Participate in any of PRO’s fun runs, pub runs or demo runs and the store will log your miles. When you hit 50 miles, you’ll receive a “50 mile” club sticker and when you hit 100 miles you’ll receive a custom PRO “100 mile” club hat. You’ll also get an invitation to a PRO party in the fall to reward everyone for their accomplishments!

Upcoming PRO runs include:

Shorewood Run Club – Join local runners every Thursday at 6pm for a 3 mile run from PRO Shorewood.

Frosty Flapjack Fitness Challenge – Join runners at the PRO Brookfield location every Saturday through Feb. 20 for 3 or 6 miles. The group starts running at 8:30am.

Cupid Shuffle Fun Run & Walk – Join in for a 3 or 6 mile run or walk at PRO Brookfield on Saturday, Feb 6 at 8:30am. During the run you can try out a pair of the new Adidas Ultra Boost ST. After running, enjoy flapjacks, coffee and cocoa. RSVP required.

For a complete list of upcoming runs, check out PRO’s event calendar.

Will we see you at any of the upcoming events at PRO?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Find the Perfect Sports Bra Fit at Bubbles & Bras

Did you know that 8 out of 10 women wear the wrong bra size?

At Performance Running Outfitter’s next Ladies Night, Bubbles & Bras, you can work with an expert bra fitter to find the perfect size. It’s your chance to find the right fit to make your workout as comfortable and supportive as possible.

Ladies Night will be offered at both the Brookfield and Shorewood PRO locations. Each store has a different event date.

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When: Tuesday, September 29 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Where: Performance Running Outfitters, 2205 N. Calhoun Road, Brookfield

When: Wednesday, September 30 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Where: Performance Running Outfitters, 4533 N. Oakland Avenue, Shorewood

During Ladies Night, PRO is offering 15% off apparel and bra purchases and 20% off Moving Comfort items. You can also enter a raffle to win a Oiselle, Handful or Moving Comfort bra.

In addition to the bra fittings, there will be champagne, chocolate, cupcakes and shopping all of PRO’s other apparel and accessories.

Space is limited, so make sure to RSVP for the Brookfield or Shorewood event.

Hope to see you there!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Build Up Runs Start This Weekend! Plus, Join In For Local July Fun Runs!

Hey everyone! Who’s already counting down the minutes til the weekend is here??

In case you don’t already have it on your calendar, remember that this Saturday is the first Milwaukee Running Festival (MRF) Marathon and Half Marathon Buildup Run. The runs will be held at 8am on Saturday mornings leading up to race weekend. The start/finish location will be the Brady Street footbridge on Lincoln Memorial Drive just south of McKinley Marina.

This Saturday, marathon runners will run 8 miles and half marathon runners will run 3 miles. To see what distance the group will run each week or for more details about the buildup runs, visit the Milwaukee Running Festival website.

Note: The buildup runs on July 25th, August 9th and September 19th will take place starting at the Grant Park Clubhouse in South Milwaukee due to other events along the lakefront.

In addition to the MRF buildup runs, here are a few upcoming fun runs you won’t want to miss:

July 9 – MRF Thursday Night Social Run
6-7:30pm
Urban Ecology Center (Menomonee Valley)
3700 West Pierce Street, Milwaukee
Details: 5k on the Hank Aaron Trail; refreshments served post run

July 11 – Flapjack 5k Fun Run with Asics
8:30am
Performance Running Outfitters (Brookfield)
2205 N Calhoun Road, Brookfield
Details: Test out the new Asics Cumulus 17 shoes; enjoy flapjacks, coffee and a raffle post run

July 15 – Badgerland Striders President’s Fun Run
6:30pm
Hart Park, Wauwatosa
Details: 3 mile and 6 mile runs; refreshments served post run

July 16 – MRF Thursday Night Social Run
6-7:30pm
PNC Bank, Mitchell Park
1597 W National Ave, Milwaukee
Details: 4-miler through Mitchell Park; refreshments served post run

July 16 – Summer Sizzler Pub Run
6pm
Performance Running Outfitters (Shorewood)
4533 N Oakland Avenue, Shorewood
Details: 5k run through Shorewood; join the group at Three Lions Pub post run for discounted food and beverages

July 21 – Trail Fun Run with Saucony
6pm
Nashotah Park
W330n5113 County Rd C, Nashotah (Meet at the Park & Ride)
Details: Hosted by Performance Running Outfitters. Group will do a 5k. Test a pair of Saucony Nomad Trail shoes and be entered into a raffle to win a pair!

July 22 – Badgerland Striders Junk Food Fun Run
6:30pm
Veteran’s Park, Milwaukee
Details: 3 mile and 6 mile runs; junk food delights served post run

July 23 – MRF Thursday Night Social Run
6-7:30pm
Wild Workouts and Wellness
3056 South Delaware Avenue, Milwaukee
Details: 4-miler around the South Shore; refreshments served post run

July 25 – Flapjack 5k Fun Run with Adidas
8:30am
Performance Running Outfitters (Brookfield)
2205 N Calhoun Road, Brookfield
Details: Test out Adidas Sequence 8 shoes; enjoy flapjacks, coffee and a raffle post run

July 29 – Badgerland Striders Corn Roast Fun Run
6:30pm
Minooka Park #4 ($4 parking fee), Waukesha
Details: 3 mile and 6 mile runs; roasted corn and other refreshments served post run

July 30 – MRF Thursday Night Social Run
6-7:30pm
Pere Marquette Park, Milwaukee
Details: 3-miler on the Riverwalk; refreshments served post run

For more information about the fun runs, visit the following:

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

We Heart Track Part Two: MKE Track Workouts

Last week, we featured tracks around the city where you can get your speedwork on. This week, we’re sharing a few local groups you can meet up with when you want to fly.

This summer, let’s get faster together, MKE!

Badgerland Striders Track Workout
Tuesdays @6:30pm
Hart Park, Wauwatosa
Website: http://www.badgerlandstriders.org/
Details: The workout is led by Matt Thull from ThunderDome Running. Participants should be warmed up and ready to start by 6:30pm. During the late fall and winter months, workouts are held at the Pettit National Ice Center indoor track and are led by Angie Smith.

Greater Milwaukee Track Club
Dates vary
Marquette University Track
Website: http://www.rungmtc.com/
Details: The goal of the club is to encourage adult cross country and track & field participation. No performance standards to join. Members can attend group workouts that are typically held a few times per week at the Marquette outdoor track.

InStep – Delafield
Wednesdays @6pm
InStep, 615 Genesee Street, Delafield
Website: http://www.runinstep.com/
Details: Runners meet at the store for a 10-minute warmup run to the track. Program runs May – October.

Milwaukee Running Group (OMG)
Tuesdays @6pm
Shorewood High School
Website: https://mkerungroup.wordpress.com/
Details: There are two separate groups – one for faster runners (6-10 min pace) and one for slower runners. The group is pretty informal and workout suggestions are always welcome.

Performance Running Outfitters
Thursdays @6:30pm thru August 13
Hart Park, Wauwatosa
Website: http://www.performancerunning.com/
Details: Participants should be warmed up and ready to start by 6:30pm. Workouts may include tempo runs, hill repeats, intervals and sprints. All abilities are welcome. Know your 5k race time to be put into groups.

We’re curious: Do you prefer to do speedwork alone or with a group?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners

Wondering what to gift the runner in your life?

Performance Running Outfitters put together a fabulous gift guide with ideas that are sure to dazzle every runner on your list. You can find all of the items at PRO’s three local shops: Brookfield, Shorewood and Oconomowoc. Holiday Wish List-page-001

MKE Runners: What’s on your wish list this holiday season?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Rebecca Benish

For many of us, running is a way of life. But for Rebecca Benish, she is literally running for her life.

Read on to learn how this MKE runner is battling MS, one mile at a time.

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Rebecca Benish

Age: 35
Years running: 2 years (still a newbie!)
Favorite workout: I have a different view of training, I don’t necessarily believe that more mileage = better running performance. I Crossfit and I love it when there is running built into the WOD (workout of the day). Ladder runs, sprints, sled pulls – those types of running workouts are my favorite.
Favorite distance to race: 5k and 10k
Pre-race routine: The night before a race, I layout all of my gear, pack my race bag, make sure my playlist is updated and Garmin watch is charged. I paint my nails, too. The morning of a race I get up about 3 hours before I need to leave the house, have a banana (sometimes I will have an English muffin in addition to the banana) and a Starbucks caramel frap. Then I hit the shower, get dressed, grab my bag and am out the door. I take the time during my morning routine going over my plan for the race and the normalcy of my shower routine helps to settle my nerves.
Favorite post-race treat: Surprisingly, it isn’t food or beer; I prefer to treat myself to a pedicure and/or a massage.
Must-have gear: My Garmin watch, my iPod shuffle and my Inov-8 Road x lite 155s. I have tried other shoes and I just keep coming back to these.

Disco Run Jeff Weiss Photo Cred

How did you get started with running?
I was diagnosed with MS, and I knew I had to do something to stop it, if I could. So I downloaded the Couch to 5k app in the spring of 2012 and haven’t looked back. I have learned from my MS diagnosis that I need to keep moving to stop the disease in its tracks.

What’s kept you running?
I run for everyone that can’t. When I don’t want to run because I am feeling lazy, I think about those that can’t run or even walk for that matter. I run because it is better than the alternative. I literally know what it means to have to run for your life.

Do you have a quote or philosophy that inspires your running?
I have been really lucky to know a couple of real-life heroes that inspire me. A few years ago, I started working for the City of Oak Creek and after my first year with the City, we were faced with an awful tragedy. My friend and coworker was shot several times, a peaceful temple was turned into chaos and many lives were lost. My friend/coworker did many, many interviews after this tragedy and one of his quotes sticks with me, “But what you learn more than anything is you’re much more capable than you think you are, and you’re much more able to do what you think you can’t.” He has become one of my biggest cheerleaders on my running journey. If a man that took more bullets than 50 Cent tells you that you are tough and brave, boy you better prove him right!

What does a typical training week look like for you?
Typically, I Crossfit 2 days a week and run 3 days (one long run day and two days tempo/fartlek type runs), my weekly mileage is shockingly low at 15-20 miles a week.

Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to volunteer as a mentor for Performance Running Outfitters 5k Training Program?
I learned about their programs back in the spring of 2013 when I participated in the Rock n Sole 10k program. Since I was so new to the running community, and I had only one runner friend, I wanted to connect with other runners and make new friends. I mentor to help new runners realize that they can do what they once thought they couldn’t. Seeing them at the finish line of the goal race is one of the best feelings in the world, knowing that I was a part of their journey from non-runner or former runner to full-fledged 5ker!

What is involved with being a mentor for this type of program?
PRO puts together the weekly schedule of workouts for the participants and once a week we do their long runs with them. Each week before the long run, there is a topic (injury prevention, apparel, etc.) or a guest speaker. It is our job as mentors to expand on the topics covered each week and to pace the runners on the run. I am usually super chatty out on the runs to distract them from what they are doing and by the time they know it we are done. Keeping them talking helps me to gauge if we are running too hard or if someone is struggling and needs to slow down.

What have you learned/gained by being a mentor?
Confidence. Being a mentor makes me feel not so new at running and it keeps me running. It inspires me to keep learning about running so that I have current and valid input for the weekly topics. I have gained lots of new runner friends.

You were diagnosed with MS in 2010 – Can you tell us a bit about the condition?
I may have been diagnosed in 2010 but I had my first clinically isolated event in 1996, which was a pretty traumatic ordeal. If anyone would like to dive deeper into my history with MS, they can check out my blog at http://runningms.com. The National MS Society (taken from the NMSS website) defines MS as an immune-mediated process, in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”

Within the CNS, the immune system attacks myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms. The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors.

An easy way to think of MS is to imagine that you have a lamp and the cord is all broken, frayed and damaged in places. What happens if you plug it in? Maybe the light bulb blows? Maybe sparks fly and start a fire? Maybe nothing happens? Maybe the lamp works fine for a while but then all of the above start? That’s MS in a nutshell. Except our maybes are vision problems, numbness, tingling, the MS Hug (it isn’t as nice as it sounds), a decline in cognitive function, extreme fatigue (like brushing your hair is impossible because you don’t have the energy or strength to stand up and hold the brush at the same time). The fatigue ugggg, I guess if you imagined having 25 pound kettlebells attached to each extremity and then not sleeping for a week and then try to get ready for work. I guess that would start to describe it.

There are 4 types of MS and I, luckily, have the milder form of relapsing-remitting (for now), meaning I have periods of no symptoms and have periods of symptoms. During remission, you may bounce back to your former self or you may hold on to a symptom and that becomes your new normal. The other three forms are secondary progressive (the disease worsens over time with periods of remission), primary progressive (only diagnosed in 10% of MSers and you slowly get worse with no remission periods over time) and progressive relapsing (even more rare occurring in 5% of MSers, you just steadily get worse from the beginning of the disease with no remissions at all). At any time, the disease can take a turn and your MS turns into a more aggressive form. Most of us diagnosed with relapsing remitting will eventually progress to secondary progressive.

What types of thoughts and emotions did you have to work through after getting your diagnosis?
Well, I didn’t have much time to process my diagnosis. My father-in-law was diagnosed with lung/brain cancer within weeks of my diagnosis. I knew his battle was going to be far worse than mine. I decided I would not feel sorry for myself one tiny bit and that I would fight my disease like hell. He was such a positive, happy person that his positive outlook always sticks with me to this day and I like to think he is cheering me on from above at my races. I learned from this diagnosis that it could always be worse and having a positive attitude makes the disease easier to fight and tolerate.

How has running helped you with MS?
It is thought that exercise quiets an overactive immune system. I think exercise, coupled with a (mostly) Paleo diet and my Copaxone is doing the trick for me. However, no one person’s MS will be the same as the next. Every single one of us has a different set of symptoms and different disease progression. In the beginning, I am not going to sugar coat, starting to exercise was beyond hard and my body hurt all the time. I was exhausted but I stuck with it and now most days I feel energized and great. I cannot stress this enough, you have to deal with the suck to get to the feel good. There will be days you don’t want to run or workout but those are the days it is most important because when you stop moving that is when the disease takes over.

Does MS ever affect your running?
Running makes your core body temperature increase, which is a big trigger for MS symptoms (as long as those symptoms resolve in 24 hours it isn’t considered a flare up). So summer running is slightly hectic for me but luckily the only symptoms I have had during a hot run are my vision getting all wonky (think about a head rush when your vision goes slightly black) and my legs feeling like lead, but as soon as I cool down I am back to normal. Also, running is a stress on the body and there is some mention of excessive stress causing symptoms or flare ups, so anyone with MS would want to increase their mileage slowly over time to see how their MS does with the increased stress and they would want to start running in the cooler months.

In addition to the MS, I have something called Reynaud’s Syndrome, which is an excessively reduced blood flow in response to cold and/or emotional stress. The Reynaud’s started almost exactly when I had my second major MS flare up in 2010. My toes/feet and left hand get ice cold, and turn white when I get too cold or am under significant emotional stress. It can be painful and take forever to feel back to normal.

How do you overcome the challenges?
Usually, going out really early or really late for a run during the summer is enough to get around the heat but sometimes the humidity is just too much and I am forced to use the treadmill. It also helps to wear as little as possible. At one point I was self-conscious about wearing shorts and tanks but then I thought, who cares? My body is doing incredible things and even though it is attacking itself on the inside I am still out there running and finishing and PRing.

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You recently joined MS Run the US as an ambassador – Can you tell us a bit about the organization? What are your responsibilities in this role?
MS Run the US is an amazing organization started by Ashley Kumlein is 2013 in support of her mom, Jill, a long time MS fighter. It is a relay run across the country, where the runners run 140 miles per week as their leg of the race. MS Run the US’s goal is to raise money to help those living with MS and also to raise money for research to help find a cure. As an Ambassador, I have committed to raising $1000 by this time next year and to help spread awareness of the disease. I joined to become an Ambassador when I did because I saw team MS Run the US help Jill walk across the finish line at the Brewer’s Mini back in September. It really hit home for me and I was close to tears. I even got to say a few words to her before I left.

Everyone knows what the pink ribbon means and the month of October but how many know the significance of the orange ribbon and the month of March? I want the same level of awareness for MS. Odds are readers know someone fighting breast cancer (I know I do, my stepmom fought it and won) and the odds are just as good that readers know someone fighting MS – but there seems to be far less awareness about the disease.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
I love running in Shorewood on our weekly runs with PRO. I love running the big hill at Bender Park in Oak Creek. I live way out in Caledonia and running the roads helped me to learn our little part of town, plus I know lots of people that live near us so I always feel safe. My routes usually take me past people we know in case I ever need help.

What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
I love the Brewer’s Mini and 10k because it is a challenging, hilly course. I love/hate Rock N Sole because of that darn bridge. The Irish Jig Jog 5k is great because it raises funds for MS Run the US.

What are your running goals for the upcoming year?
I would really like to break 25 minutes in the 5k and 1 hour for the quarter marathon/10k. I will probably run the South Shore Half and Lakefront next year (Anne Chapman the Shorewood PRO store manager, put that little bug in my head, so thanks Anne!).

Thanks for chatting with us, Rebecca! To connect with Rebecca, check out her blog at http://runningms.com/.

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!