La Jolla woman becomes first athlete with MS to run marathons on every continent

SAN DIEGO -- A La Jolla woman became the first person with multiple sclerosis to run seven marathons on seven continents in one year.

Cheryl Hile's passion for running wouldn't be possible without the help of her orthotics.

"I was getting these really weird electric shocks in my arm, it would wake me up at night," said Hile. "Sometimes it felt like a waterfall was tricking down my arm."

In 2006, doctors diagnosed Hile with multiple sclerosis. She quickly developed a common symptom known as "foot drop."

"The electrical impulse from my brain to my shin to lift my foot -- it's too slow and too weak for the fast pace of running. What happens is my foot just flops and drops and I trip over my own foot," Hile said.

Doctors advised Hile to lower her expectations when it came to running, but she refused to listen.

It wasn't long before she met Ara Mirzaian, a Hanger Clinic orthotist, who built a custom carbon ankle foot device that allows her to run.

"My brace actually allows her to land on her heel and propel off her big toe," said Mirzaian.

Hile has since run 44 marathons, including at least one on every continent, in an effort to raise awareness about MS.

"You just need to find adjustments somehow," said Hile. "I'm not the fastest person out there. My right leg drags and I kind of look funny as I'm trying to push forward but I just can't imagine having an excuse."

"Seeing somebody complete one marathon -- let alone 44 marathons -- and then doing seven marathons on seven continents in 12 months, that is the most amazing thing I've ever seen," said Mirzaian. "It's the most satisfying thing I've ever done in my career."

Hile plans to run in the Detroit Free Press Marathon next October. She says she's hoping to organize the largest group of people with MS to run alongside her.

Hile plans to run in the Detroit Free Press Marathon next October. She says she's hoping to organize the largest group of people with MS to run alongside her.