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Running The Boston Marathon — Together

Running for Rare pairs up runners and rare disease community members to raise rare disease awareness and raise funds for the the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. (NORD) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undiagnosed Diseases Program. 
As a fibromuscular dysplasia patient, I have been fortunate to be a patient partner for two years now — first with Jessi Colund in 2015 and now with Martha Staples. I am humbled to be a source of inspiration for these women who have put in mile after mile and will be at the starting line for the 120th Boston Marathon bright and early on April 18, 2016.  
I am not a runner. I never have been, and I don't anticipate I ever will be. A physiatrist friend of mine is recommending I start a program of "vigorous walking" for five minutes a day for four to seven days and then doubling that to 10 minutes a day. He wants my heart rate up. I told him that unloading my groceries gets my heart rate up. It's a matter of stubborn chicken and stubborn egg. If I exercised more, perhaps I wouldn't tire so easily, but I tire so easily, so I don't want to exercise more. A.K.A. — it's hard, I don't want to do it, please wave a magic wand. When I invent the magic wand, I'll be sure to let you know. 

Martha and I have been getting to know one another through email, Facebook, and phone calls, and we wanted to share a bit about ourselves and our partnership with those who may also be runners or rare disease patients. 

Name: Martha Stapels
Age: 39
Job: Principal Scientist (Chemist who analyzes proteins)
Years Running: 4 years in grad school, 10 year hiatus, 4 years since, so 8 years total
Years with Running for Rare: 2 years
Longest Run to Date: 28 Miles!!!
Marathons Already Completed: 5 (Portland, OR 2002, Baystate 2014, Boston 2015, Grandma’s 2015, and Marine Corps 2015)
Why Are You Running: To raise money and awareness about rare diseases and to inspire my kids to dare to try hard things.
1) Tell me about a time when you wanted to give up — but didn't — and what it was that drove you onward.
There is always a point in a long run that I want to give up. I try to think about strong runners who inspire me, my kids, my friends, my family, my patient partner, my running coach. Honestly, doing scientific research is very similar to running a marathon. It’s a long slow process and more often than not, things don’t work the first time. Being part of a team helps, and trying to move things forward every day is the only way to make progress. Thinking of who you’re working (or running) for really helps when you want to give up.
2) What is your personal motto?
Courage without fear
3) For what in your life are you most grateful?
I have two beautiful, smart, amazing, healthy, funny kids.
4) What are three songs that make you feel good no matter what?
5) Assume have have unlimited resources and no limitations of any kind (time, money, distance, companionship, family/child care, etc). What would you most like to do?
Travel and run all over the world. Experience all of the beautiful beaches. Take my kids to see amazing waterfalls.

Name: Sarah E. Kucharski
Age: 35
Job: Coordinator of ePatient Programs at Stanford Medicine X; independent consultant
Years Running: 0
Years with Running for Rare: 2 years
Longest Run to Date: I ran the mile back in grade school for the Presidential Fitness Test.
Marathons Already Completed: 0
Why Are You a R4R Patient Partner: The physical and mental fortitude it takes to run just amazes me. I admire runners' drive to carry on past the pain. Such ability is something I hear echoed in the rare disease community, as so many patients have no cure and no treatment but persevere.
1) Tell me about a time when you wanted to give up — but didn't — and what it was that drove you onward.
After I had a stroke at age 27 and was working part-time, I decided to go to grad school. My program required one science course. The course offered at the time was online and about biorhythms. The professor was out for the semester and had left teaching to an assistant. I'm a good student. When I — and a majority of other students — failed the first few assignments, it was clear that something was amiss, but to make matters worse we only received our failing grades after the course's drop date. Even though offered an exception to the drop date, I was in a bind. Another science offering for the program wouldn't be until two semesters away and thus delay my graduation. I used my frustration and anger as a catalyst. I studied, learned how to speak the language the TA wanted, helped other students as much as possible, and learned from others. I resented that the material in and of itself wasn't that hard and that the TA wasn't grading on whether students understood the material — just whether they could regurgitate what they had been told. In the end, I passed the class with an A, and followed up with administration to improve the course and the program overall for future students. 
2) What is your personal motto?
"Many times in your life you may feel that you are failing, but ultimately you will express yourself, and that expression will justify your life." — from Irvine Stone's Lust for Life
3) For what in your life are you most grateful?
I absolutely treasure my parents. They are my advisors, my confidants, my friends. I admire them for their values and the strength and courage they have shown in being MY parents. While being such incredible supporters, they also have allowed themselves to be emotionally vulnerable, which has helped us get to know one another as individuals. 
4) What are three songs that make you feel good no matter what?
5) Assume have have unlimited resources and no limitations of any kind (time, money, distance, companionship, family/child care, etc). What would you most like to do?
I've been working on a bucket list for several years. I've been fortunate to check off many things on that list, while some have been scratched off for other reasons and new things added. The top three things on that list are 1) pet a tiger 2) get more than a magazine article published — preferably a book 3) write a book. 

Help me recognize Martha's dedication and efforts to make a difference in the rare disease community by making a donation to her fundraising page, available via at


  1. It is a well executed post. I like the diagram most.


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"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." — Buddha

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