Tuesday, April 30, 2013 | 3:31 p.m.
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Ashley Kumlein ran across the country in 2010 to help raise money for multiple sclerosis, a disease that has afflicted her mother for 30 years.
Now Kumlein, 28, has her own nonprofit organization, MS Run the US, which has gathered 15 runners to complete the same feat she accomplished alone, although in a relay format.
“I didn’t want to change it into something where 180 people sign up for a marathon each day. I really wanted to request a lot of people,” Kumlein said.
One of the runners is 37-year-old Adam Towle of Salana Beach, Calif. Tuesday morning, 12 miles into a leg of the relay that includes Las Vegas – the first of nine marathons Towle will run – he stops for a soda.
It’s part of a diet that includes pizza, hamburgers, and, often, four pints of coffee ice cream a week. When you run 240 miles in nine days, as Towle will attempt to do, you can really eat whatever you want.
Towle is the third runner on a relay that started April 15 in Los Angeles and will end late this summer in New York. Along the way, team members are raising money and awareness for multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system.
“One of the frustrating parts of the disease is a lot of the symptoms aren’t visible,” Kumlein said. “Sometimes it can appear not to be a very severe disease. But it is. And people need to know it is.”
The illness afflicts about 2.1 million people worldwide, but scientists are still figuring out what causes the disease, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“I want my kids to see that Dad can do something to help out and that we can all do our part,” Towle said.
Kumlien, whose home is just outside Milwaukee, hopes each runner will raise $10,000.
Towle has raised just under $13,000 so far. He wants to eclipse $15,000 by the end of the week. He’ll get there, he hopes, by running to Nephi, Utah, where the next runner will take the copper-colored baton the runners are passing.
The cross-country run is scheduled to end Sept. 6; by the end of the year the runners and other supporters hope to have close to $300,000 in donations. Kumlein said 100 percent of public donations go toward research or other initiatives to create awareness for the illness.
Towle heard Kumlein speak about the disease, its impact and MS Run the US. When Towle offered to help, Kumlein asked him to run.
An experienced triathlete, Towle said OK, and he’s been using his skills as a software salesman to haul in donations for his leg of the run.
“I have this idea in my head that when I’m old and 80, I’ll still be doing stuff like this,” Towle said.
He’s a got a ways to go in the Southwest heat, but mid-run Coca-Colas will help keep him cool.
The most painful part? The slits he made in his $180 running sneakers. That’s so his swelling feet will have the room to expand.
It’s all in the name of research.