Melissa Schmidt of Fond du Lac is running for a reason. She just participated in her fourth MS Run the US ultra relay. She was one of 18 runners taking a portion of the route from the Los Angeles area to New York City. It's a 3,100 mile trek to raise awareness and funds for the fight against multiple sclerosis.
The first leg of Schmidt's journey began in Fort Wayne, Indiana on July 16th. She battled temperatures in the 90's and high humidity right from the start.
"Your feet and your shoes are squishing. It's so sweaty and wet. It's just not fun at all," she explained.
On day two, the humidity broke and she was back at it. She ran another 26 miles which is about the distance of a marathon. When her body grew tired, she turned to social media.
"I'll just stop and look at my phone once in awhile and see all the messages and feel really encouraged by the community that's out there just cheering me on, and I know I'm running for a huge cause."
She was running for multiple friends, including Michelle Duran, as well as her aunt who are all living with multiple sclerosis. MS is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system and can lead to numbness, paralysis and vision loss.
"I appreciate the funds that she raises and the awareness that she raises to hopefully go toward finding a better treatment or a cure," said Duran.
"The medications are great for their day to day living to be more comfortable and functioned, but ultimately our goal is to end MS," added Amy Wirtz, Community Engagement Manager for MS Run the US.
It's a goal that helped Schmidt push forward another 26 miles every day. On day five, the hills of Ohio came into play and gave her flashbacks from running through the Appalachian Mountains last year.
"It's another level of fatigue that you're not used to," she explained. "I just think, I can handle this. I'm going to feel better in an hour or two hours. I'll be recovering and I'll feel better, and sometimes people with MS don't feel better for a very long time."
Finally, on the seventh and final day, Schmidt crossed the finish line in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
"I grabbed a towel and I sobbed into my towel for probably a good ten minutes," she chuckled.
With 203 miles completed in seven days, Schmidt finished the 'Hope for Hannah' segment of the run and met the girl it was named after. Hannah was diagnosed with MS at 14-years-old.
"I feel good about being able to help and use running, you know something I enjoy, to help other people," Schmidt explained.
By going the distance, she gets a sense of accomplishment in giving those with MS hope for a brighter future.
The final runner in this year's MS Run the US will cross the finish line on August 10th.
Melissa has raised over $15,000 so far for this event. You can still donate here.
In the past four years, she's brought in over $52,000. A portion of the donations go to the National MS Society as well as other support organizations that provide equipment such as wheelchairs and ramps to those with MS to make daily life easier.