*Editor's Note: On June 20th, Michael completed the Great Run Marathon finishing in 3 hours and 33 minutes qualifying him for the 2016 Boston Marathon. Runner's World did a follow up story on Michael's race.
In the late 90ís, Michael Westphal was one of the top runnerís in Maine: a competitive runner, he could run a mile in just four minutes and 19 seconds. However, after being diagnosed with Parkinsonís in 2006 at the age of 49 (just one year after his sister, Gretchen, was also diagnosed with PD), Michael feared that an active life style would not be a realistic option and so began a long hiatus from his favorite sport. In the years since, however, Michael has adopted an optimist outlook, found a new source of determination and with the support from family and friends, heís started running again.
This June, Michael will lace back up and run the Great Run Marathon on Cranberry Island, his first marathon in 23 years.†In the process of training for the race, Michael has garnered an incredible amount of support and press from the community.†He was recently profiled in Runner's World, where he shared how training for a marathon has helped his Parkinson's disease symptoms.
ďSomething about the exercise and feeling good about being out there on the roads seems to kick my body into gear,Ē he told Runner's World. ďI rarely experience Parkinsonís symptoms while Iím running."
What was your inspiration for joining Team Fox?
I had been following the activities of Team Fox for a number of years and when I started running and racing again, I decided it was time for me to step up to the plate.† Plus, Iím so impressed with Michael J. Fox and his attitude towards dealing with the disease. I decided early on that I wanted to adopt that same outlook.
After years of not running, what has it meant to you to go back to your roots and lace up again?†
Itís been an incredibly happy feeling to get back to doing something that I loved doing in the past and for a while thought was over.† I just was determined to stick with it and after a few weeks of training, my symptoms lessened and during much of the day, I almost feel like I did before I was diagnosed.† I still have my slow times and some days where I experience some pretty heavy dyskinesia, but it has lessened considerably and does not last as long as it used to.†
You have raised almost $20,000 so far Ė simply incredible! Did you think fundraising would be challenging?†
The most difficult task in fundraising has been the actual typing of the thank you notes.† I like to email a somewhat personal note to each supporter that I know, and a more general note showing my appreciation to those I donít know.† But it is also the most enjoyable thing to connect with so many people who are moved by my quest.† Iím just hoping to continue running injury free so I can complete this marathon in June.† Thatís why I am putting in so many miles (about 47 miles in training per week)- I want people to know that Iím giving it my best effort.
What advice would you give to someone living with PD, who is interested in getting involved with TeamFox?
Just start with an idea including something you love to do or is a passion of yours and go with it.† Just take it one step at a time.
About yourself: Any fun or interesting facts you would like to share?†
My wife, Jennifer, has also battled with a medical condition and is a big inspiration to me.† In 2003, she had brain surgery at Mass. General in Boston to remove a brain tumor.† The neurosurgeon was able to remove most of the tumor and after chemo and a few years later some radiation, she is doing well.† We go to the same neurologist together.† She keeps telling me that sheís the lucky one not having to deal with the effects of Parkinsonís, but I think itís a toss up.