Kelli Merritt is so committed to her health that she's going to participate in a 5K on Jan. 1 -- even though she'll use a walker to cross the finish line.
For Merritt, 32, of Rockford, Minn., it's not just a New Year's resolution; it's a lifelong one in the face of a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
"There was a time when I couldn't lift my leg off the bed -- and now I'm planning to walk a 5K," says Merritt. "Will it be hard? Yes. But it's just a way to take control of the MS, to not let it control me."
Her symptoms began with her legs.
"I was having trouble walking -- my legs felt like cinder blocks -- and I was tripping a lot," Merritt says. "I also was noticing my right foot would drop."
As her symptoms worsened, a trip to the emergency room led to a battery of tests and, eventually, a diagnosis: relapsing remitting MS.
After a regimen of steroids and a stint in rehab, Merritt's condition has begun to stabilize, although she still uses a leg brace and a walker on occasion. However, she certainly didn't think she was strong enough to participate when her employer, Life Time Fitness, announced it was hosting a 3.1-mile race on Jan. 1.
The 5K is tied to Life Time's first ever Commitment Day, when thousands of people in more than 25 cities will join together on New Year's Day in a simultaneous 5K to kick off a healthier way of life.