Each month, we spotlight an inspiring story from someone in our Parkinson’s community who is helping to improve the quality of life of people living with Parkinson’s. Today, we are happy to feature Rhonda Foulds. Diagnosed in 1999 at age 35, Rhonda took up running to help her live well with Parkinson’s.
What was life like after you received your Parkinson’s diagnosis?
I was diagnosed when I was 35. I had been training for a running race and kept noticing that my right leg was dragging, and I had a tremor in my right hand. My doctors finally gave me a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
I became really depressed, and on top of that, back then, they didn’t have all of the information they do now on how beneficial exercise is. I stopped doing everything because I thought I had to be careful and not put any stress on my body. My doctor said to me, “Don’t run because you might fall.”
In 2004, I got DBS; and while that definitely helped with my symptoms, I still didn’t do any exercise. It was a long 10 years.
How did you get into running?
In 2010, I read a book written by a runner who has Parkinson’s. After reading it, I decided it was time for me to start exercising.
The first run I did was at a local park with my son who was home from the Marine Corps. As we were walking, he challenged me to run just a few steps. It felt hard, but it also felt really good. I walked and ran and walked and ran. As we were leaving the park, I saw a sign that was advertising an upcoming 5k. I decided to sign up for it, and three months later I completed it. Over the next 13 months, I completed a 10k, 10 miler, half marathon, and marathon.
When I run, I feel like I don’t have Parkinson’s. I feel like a young person. And while my gait may look goofy to others, I feel great.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I listened to the part of me that wanted more than what my doctors told me I could do. Reading that book inspired me to take that first step, and I’m proud that I’ve been continuing to take more and more steps every day for the past 10 years, literally and figuratively.
Since December 2011, I’ve run 10 50ks, one 50 miler, an 80 miler, and 100 marathons. I completed my 100th at the Cowtown Marathon in Ft. Worth, TX on March 1, 2020. My son even came and ran the second half of it with me.
What goals are you working toward now?
When it comes to running, I want to run a marathon in all 50 states. I’ve run 31, and I have 19 to go.
What advice do you have for others living with Parkinson’s?
We are capable of so much more than we think we are. For a long time after I was diagnosed, I never imagined I could run a mile, let alone 100 marathons. However, once I proved to myself that I could run around the park that day with my son, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do even more. Once I believed I could do it, I kept setting bigger and bigger goals.
Also, surround yourself with others who want to push themselves. I run with the same two people multiple times a week. One of them is 73 and ran the Olympic trials back in his day, and the other is 76. She began running in her 60s. They inspire me every day to do whatever I can to live well.
When I talk to others living with Parkinson’s, I don’t focus on running. Running has been great for me, but it’s not for everyone. However, I always ask them, “What’s your marathon?” Maybe it’s wanting to feel good on a five-mile bike ride. Maybe it’s wanting to work full-time and still have the energy to work out every morning. Maybe it’s going to PT three times a week for three months, or practicing your singing every day, or volunteering each week, etc. We all have BIG challenges ahead of us, but we can do more than we think. You have to start with believing you can do it and then just keep taking steps each day to get there.
Do you have a Team DPF or fundraising story you’d like to share?
Your story, like Rhonda’s, could be featured on our blog and Facebook page so others can learn from your experiences. Submit Your Team DPF Moments of Victory® Story now.
If you’re not yet part of Team DPF, but you’d like to join us in raising money to help people live well with Parkinson’s today, contact our team to get started.