Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2013. Since then, Jimmy has gone on to run, cycle and swim in countless races and endurance events to help speed a cure -- so many that we at The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) have lost count! And since he joined Team Fox in 2012, he's raised more than $100,000 to support Parkinson's research. This Monday, July 3 at 8 p.m./ 7 CT he takes on his next challenge -- the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course.
This Monday, July 3 at 8 p.m./ 7 CT on NBC he takes on his next challenge -- the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course.
Logging over 2,000 miles through an ambitious schedule of races including more than 7 half-marathons, 3 full marathons and 3 triathlons in a single year is an impressive feat for just about any athlete to pursue. But for Team Fox member Jimmy Choi—who until recent years was unable to walk without the aid of a cane due to symptoms stemming from Parkinson’s—this lofty goal signifies just as much of a personal victory as it does an athletic achievement.
Diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s disease ten years ago at the age of 27, Jimmy’s arrival at this point in his journey with PD has not been easy. “At first, I didn’t want to believe it,” Choi recalls, “in fact, it took years of denial before I even came to terms with what I had to live with.” However, as his symptoms progressed and his day-to-day functionality became increasingly more inhibited, Jimmy became determined not to take a back seat to his diagnosis: “I knew that I had time and I knew that I wanted to do what I could to help raise awareness.”
After a positive result with a local clinical trial allowed him to regain some of his balance, Jimmy began focusing his energy towards exercise. “Through physical therapy, I noticed that the more exercise I did, the better I felt. That’s when I decided to start running” Choi explained. “At first the goal was 1 mile, and then a 5K, and then 5 miles which eventually snowballed into a desire to run a marathon. Running and training made me feel better physically. I noticed that after a run, my symptoms would be lessened and if I skipped a run or took a few days off, the symptoms were worse.”
Running provided Jimmy with a newfound hobby to channel his energy towards within Team Fox, and he discovered companionship and inspiration from others who were also using their personal passions to make a difference. “Through Team Fox, I was able to connect with others in my area. Others of similar age and interests [which] made it easier to find support and to speak with people who [I could] relate to.”
In 2012, with the support of family and friends, Jimmy crossed the finish line at the Chicago Marathon having raised over $5,000 for Team Fox, but he was just getting started. “Last year, I was able to raise some funds for MJFF, but I feel I can still do more,“ Choi reports. And so, with a goal of raising $8,000, Jimmy has set his sights on a new series of physical challenges that will push him to run, bike and swim well over 2,000 miles in 2013. As he says, “Last year, we stepped in by raising over $5,000. This year, I’m asking that we all step it up. I’m stepping it up alongside others with and without PD to run, ride and swim for those who can’t. I’m stepping it up for my loving wife and kids so that they won’t have to fight for me when I get older…. [and] I’m stepping it up to prove that I will not let PD slow me down again.”
Learn more about Jimmy’s story and to check out watch a preview of his American Ninja Warrior run.