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Tougher than Parkinson's: Megan Duffy Tests Her Limits for Team Fox

Tougher than Parkinson's: Megan Duffy Tests Her Limits for Team Fox

Team Fox members continue to find unique ways to ask more of themselves and their communities when it comes to speeding a cure for Parkinson's disease (PD).

Enter Megan Duffy. A PhD candidate in neuroscience with a focus in Parkinson's disease, Megan is deeply motivated to advance a cure on behalf of her grandmother who lived with PD. Earlier this year, Megan realized she also could contribute to research outside of the lab by becoming a member of Team Fox. Now, she will put on her fundraiser hat and test her limits at America's Toughest Mudder Midwest, an eight-hour overnight obstacle course that involves mental grit, endurance and a lot of mud.

Here, Megan recalls her decision to join Team Fox and her efforts as both a fundraiser and researcher.

Team Fox: Can you tell us more about what inspired you to be so involved in Parkinson's research?

My initial and core motivation for getting involved both as a researcher and as part of the broader Parkinson's community is my grandmother, Rosemary. She was my best friend growing up and a fiercely independent, supportive role model for me. She was diagnosed during my senior year of high school and unfortunately passed away in 2014.

The last year has been particularly motivating. Through interactions at conferences and social media I've been able to connect with people all over the world living with PD. I've learned so many things about PD that I didn't know a year ago. Getting involved with the community is a great reminder of the bigger picture and why we do what we do as scientists.

TF: On June 2, you are taking on a Tough Mudder as a Team Fox member. Why a Tough Mudder?

I ran my first Tough Mudder in 2015 and within the first mile I was hooked. The obstacles break up the monotony of running 10+ miles and challenge your body in ways that endurance running can't.

The idea to use an obstacle course race came to me after attending an annual conference in September where I met several individuals living with PD. Our conversations left me so inspired that I thought, Hey, I can be doing more than what I'm doing in the lab. These people were determined not to be defined by a diagnosis. Thus, my "Tougher than Parkinson's" fundraising campaign was born.

TF: But not just any Tough Mudder - the Toughest Mudder. Tell us more.

Tough Mudders typically consist of a 10 to 12-mile course littered with 20+ obstacles testing strength, coordination and in some cases, your ability to conquer fears such as heights and deep water. Tough Mudders take me two to three hours to complete and are run in the daytime.

Last year, Tough Mudder introduced the Toughest Mudder series -- it called my name. Toughest Mudder is an overnight obstacle course race set up on the normal 10-mile course divided into two loops. The goal is to complete as many loops in eight hours as you can.

TF: What are you most looking forward to about the race?

Toughest Mudder will be the most difficult physical and mental challenge I have ever put myself through. I'm always looking for new ways to challenge my body and my mind. Training has been a great stress outlet from graduate school, so in the end it all balances out.

Another thing I'm excited for is the connections I'll make on the course. Whether you run it as a team or an individual, you're never alone out there.

TF: What is one bit of advice for future (and fellow) Team Fox fundraisers?

Reach out, reach out, reach out and be persistent. Social media was a huge help to me -- not only did it allow me to spread my message and story across multiple platforms, it caught the eye of people who could help me reach a wider audience than I could have on my own. Tell your story, because you never know who you might connect with or inspire.

Interested in helping us get closer to a cure? Check out upcoming opportunities to become a Team Fox athlete. Already running with Team Fox? Share your personal story here.

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