Kate Morse: Striking out MS
Kate Morse had always been an athlete. “Never the fastest or the best,” she says, “but I was always part of the team and a competitor. Before MS, I did not question that I would remain active for many years.” She was training for her first marathon when she was diagnosed in 2004, five days before her 30th birthday.
Kate quickly discovered the National Capital Chapter near her home in Virginia and joined the Marathon Strides Against MS team to run the Marine Corps Marathon. “I had resolved to remain focused on what I could do, no matter what MS tried to put in my way,” she remembers. She has since completed several more marathons and triathlons, including the Ironman Lake Placid in July 2011.
However, the triathlon team closest to her heart is Team Strike Out MS. She and her husband Nelson had started the team in 2007 with the goal of making sure people understand that an MS diagnosis is not the end of the world. Since then, the team has grown to more than 40 athletes across the country who wear “I Tri to End MS” gear and raise money for the Society. Kate even tattooed “Strike Out MS” on her ankle.
Team Strike Out MS added a new dimension after an exacerbation three years ago temporarily paralyzed the right side of Kate’s body, putting her in the hospital. Her friend Iwan visited and at first he “was very uncomfortable at seeing me,” Kate recalls. Later, he explained to her that he had always had his health and couldn’t comprehend having it go away so suddenly—and that he wanted to be a part of the team.
Meanwhile, another friend—Tony, who has secondary progressive MS—was frustrated by his mobility issues. So Kate and Nelson put Iwan and Tony together, creating Team Strike Out MS’s wheelchair race team. Iwan volunteered to push Tony, and an organization called Athletes Serving Athletes helped them to get a special racing wheelchair. “It’s elongated, with a tiny wheel out front and doesn’t look like a regular wheelchair—more like a running stroller,” Kate explains.
“It takes the same kind of endurance to tolerate that wheelchair for four or five hours as it does to run. It’s just as cold or rainy for Tony as it is Iwan,”Kate notes. What Tony didn’t expect was the number of folks who approached him during the race to ask why he was racing and how he’s doing. Not only that, Tony’s wife, Christi, ran with them, fulfilling her dream of running a marathon with her husband. Next up for Tony and Iwan: the 2012 Boston Marathon.
“I race with gratitude,” Kate adds.“Really, I approach life with gratitude. No matter what goal, triathlon or otherwise, I have set for myself, the fact that I am able to attempt to achieve those goals is reason to be grateful.”