When Curt Ehrlinger was 8, his mom, Penny, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“They told her to go home and wait,” he said.
At that time, the Dubucque, Iowa, man’s mother was waiting for just one thing. She sat and waited to end up in a wheelchair as her disease progressed. And progress it did. She couldn’t play with her four kids, and she couldn’t help her husband raise them.
“One day, my dad came home and said, ‘We’re going for a walk,’ ” Ehrlinger said.
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It flew in the face of the treatments, but it worked. One day she made it to the front door. The next to the drive way. Then to the end of the block. Eventually, she was doing three miles a day.
“I figured if she could do that, I could do this,” Ehrlinger said.
“This” is a 150-mile stretch of running across Pennsylvania, part of a coast-to-coast relay that started in Los Angeles in April and will end in New York City in about two weeks, according to MS Runs the U.S. road crew member Rachel Aldrich.
The goal of the run, like many that cross the country each year, is to use the physical challenge to raise the awareness of a disease, in this case the same debilitating, progressive illness that has affected Ehrlinger’s mom for 38 years.
On Monday, he ran through Clearfield County into Centre, stopping just outside Philipsburg. On Tuesday, the runner and his crew expect to make camp near Bellefonte.
So how does the Midwesterner feel about the terrain in Pennsylvania?
“The hills are no joke,” he said. “But it’s a beautiful part of the country.”
Ehrlinger is running just one of 18 segments of the 3,100-mile trek. Oh, wait ... he’s not. This is his second section of the relay. While most people just take on one section, he’s picked up the additional leg after another runner had to drop out.
The event raises more than just awareness. Each runner is expected to come up with at least $10,000 in pledges for their part of the journey.
Ehrlinger got more than $40,000.
He isn’t the only overachiever, though. Aldrich said the run is the charity’s primary fundraiser, with a goal of $180,000. They pulled in $225,000 this year.
“It’s the largest we’ve had in four years,” she said.