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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Moon resident battling multiple sclerosis uses long-distance running as avenue for advocacy


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John Platt's running career started with a glance at the television.
It was June 2013, and Platt had just lost a friend to multiple sclerosis, the same disease with which he had been diagnosed less than eight years earlier. The summer heat wasn't helping.
One of the symptoms of Platt's MS is known as Uhthoff's phenomenon, meaning as his core temperature rises, he starts to lose his vision. This was beginning to take effect as a weight-loss program glowed on his television and struck a nerve.
“I'm starting to become (a) prisoner back in my air-conditioned house,” Platt remembered thinking. “I was just really unhappy.”
Platt thought of the unused treadmill in his basement, a gift from his brother, and decided to do something about the layer of dust that had accumulated on the machine.
He had used a cane for the past seven years and needed assistance from the arm rails, but he walked a mile in a half-hour.
The next day, he repeated the feat. One mile turned into several miles. He progressed to taking extended walks outside during a cool August near a family member's house in the Chicago area.
An estimated 3,500 miles later, Platt, 41, of Moon recounts the story of how he changed his life through running, dressed in his teal Boston Marathon zip-up jacket. He smiles.
“Sitting here today, I consider myself an athlete. I took an easy-A course in college called ‘walk/jog,' and I got a C,” Platt said recently. “Three world marathon majors later, maybe I can go back to Slippery Rock and see if I can get my transcript changed.”
On Sunday, less than two weeks after adding a Boston medal to his Chicago 2014 and New York 2015 hardware, he is set to run his third Pittsburgh half-marathon.
Platt is one of 2.3 million people worldwide living with MS. He said 10 years of spreading awareness and advocating on behalf of the Multiple Sclerosis Society have given him perspective, but reorganizing his life to achieve his goals has taken sacrifice.
During the summer, Platt often wakes before 3 a.m., logging miles before the sun rises. When the sun is out, he fills a skullcap and sleeves with ice before heading out. They are details Platt has perfected through trial and error, but often that error requires him to push to and beyond his limits.
On a warm Boston Marathon race day, for example, he knew his MS would flare up after 13 miles. As he coasted into an aid station at Mile 14, he already could sense his vision disappearing. A physician's assistant checked his vitals while he asked for a towel to clean off his glasses.
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