“My one word might be inspiration.  How I choose to live my life is up to me. MS lives with me, I don’t live with MS.  I am now in a situation where I can inspire others to stay, or become active, whether they are living with MS or not. People look at me a little closer now that I have MS. Other people with MS inspire me to do more or challenge myself. My wife and son inspire me to be more active and healthy for them. Inspiration is everywhere if you look for it.” (David, Project 13 2018)

It was a cold, rainy Friday December evening when everyone began arriving at Alice’s house. But the vibe inside was anything but dreary. The food and drink was prepped only due to the small army of the always reliable Meat Fight family. All we needed was our people! We had runners coming locally from Dallas, but also Nebraska, Ohio, Washington and Alabama.  It’s always interesting meeting people for the first time whom you have already been corresponding for a few months. While it seemed quiet at first, before we knew it, the home was full of anxious chatter and everyone enjoying good food, good drink and good company. After a couple of hours, we did our bit where we go around and introduce ourselves; why we are here, what our connection is to MS, and simply tell our own story to our new friends. Every time we go around the circle the experience is different. I like to sit back and watch everyone; not only the person telling their story, but also the others watching. The array of emotions is palpable; excitement, fear, nerves. But what I find the most amazing is the relationships that are sparked and the support network that is created from these short few hours together.

This is our Project 13 group. Those who have accepted the task of something that will challenge them, intimidate them, but make them stronger; these who committed to months of training (both time and energy) and took the initiative to be here, ready to toe their own start line.

Project 13 has now come two full years. We have taken four groups through endurance events.  Each one of these individuals has applied (for a half Ironman, marathon or half marathon) – and once accepted, they commit to the challenge. We first dipped our toe in with Texas 70.3 in 2017; and since then we have and have learned, and grown, with each event. We aim to work within the limitations they may have, being family and work commitments, life stress, physical, and mental barriers. The lead up to the event isn’t always easy; but it is what it should be, a learning process. The more effort one puts towards a goal, the more rewarding it is. And yes, these individuals are living with MS. But when it comes to working with them, this is rarely mentioned. We discuss the training schedule, setting process goals; navigating hiccups that may occur along the way; and how we can best get them to the start line healthy, confident and prepared. We create the opportunity, and we help equip them to achieve success. And this process is different for each person. Picture the start line of a running race, there are hundreds of people. Sure; they may all run, but their journey to that line is unique and the reason they are there is entirely their own. We step on a start line to push our bodies and our limits; to see what we are capable of, for the purity of sport and challenge. Some days go smoothly and we achieve brilliant success; others seem wrought with obstacles, discomfort and frustration. But we carry on, we move forward; and we do this because we can. And that is what they are doing; moving forward, because they can.

While our groups may have the common bond in that they are living with MS, what we find at the end of these events is they bond, and they rise above, over sharing the experience with their fellow fighters. What brings them together and helps them conquer the challenge is the seed of belief that they can, while often sprinkled with a healthy dose of trepidation; witnessing others doing it, and realizing that with focus, dedication and commitment – they can achieve what may in the beginning seem insurmountable. We at Meat Fight support and encourage. We act crazy, try not to take ourselves too seriously. We drink the beer and eat the meat. We simply try to remove the obstacles. But it is our Project 13 athletes who commit to the training, stare their fears and doubts in the mirror and get out the door each day to train and arrive to the start line to make their vision a reality. With each event, I’m impressed by their accomplishments; humbled by the ability to witness their journey and incredibly inspired by their achievements.

With this, I will wrap up by sharing their words.

“I’m so thankful that you made it OK to concentrate on me.  That’s something I never do.  I always think my strength comes from helping my friends finish but now I know my strength is inside me & I just share it with them. This forced me to look inside and face my fears.  Being part of this gave me some self-awareness I really needed. Meat Fight made me fit. I’m inspired to do more.” (Deb) 

“I completed the 13.1 miles side-by-side, step-by-step with another Meat Fighter and MS Warrior. In doing so I was reminded of the importance of not going about the MS journey [or any journey] alone. We are stronger together and though we have unique goals we share the common desire to show how strong we are together in facing MS.” (Angela)  

“I saw people with MS that were running, and had run previously.  Listening to them tell their stories, their struggles, and accomplishments, and give encouragement to the first timers, gave me hope like nothing else had.  If they could do this, I could too.  A calmness came over me, I was finally excited about what was to come. I did even better than I had expected, and as happy as I was about that, it wasn’t what stood out to me the most that day. When I saw my husband after the race, the guy that never cries, was holding back tears.  I could see his pride in my accomplishment, but even more, his pride that I had conquered my fear.  I was stronger than I thought I was. I can do this.” (Kay)

“To complete something through the adversity meant a lot.  And to have a better race time WITH MS than previous halfs showed me that it definitely won’t be all downhill from here. I really liked meeting other people that are still trying new things and reaching new goals even while living with MS.” (Carrie)

“I learned the hard way that slowing down is important. Everything was there for me for to succeed; I did succeed by completing my first marathon and the months of training which is what matters. This experience has me made go from a person living with MS to feel like an athlete living with MS.” (David) 

“P13 is the first time in 13 years of being diagnosed (just realized that coincidence!), that I was surrounded by other people like me. It was amazing to be around like-minded people and to see each one accomplish their goals.” (Deanna)read more about Deanna here!

“If you had told me a year ago that I would run a half marathon a year later, I would have told you that was a bunch of crap. I had developed a love for road cycling, and I insisted “I’m not a runner.” But once winter came and opportunity to get outside was less frequent, I wanted something more.  I wanted to keep doing something that would show MS who’s boss. So I signed up for a 5k. 10k’s followed 5k’s, then a 15k. And finally the Dallas Half Marathon. I ran side by side with my fellow MS warriors and bad asses who encouraged and motivated me. It’s still surreal. I’m proud of myself, and I can’t wait to see what I’m capable of next. I AM A RUNNER.” (Jeana)

There may be exercising, but there will also always be equal amounts beer, pigs, cows, and fun…