Blue Nose Marathon a major milestone for runner with multiple sclerosis

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WATCH: Melanie Bennett won't let MS diagnosis stop her from running in her fourth half marathon – Jun 9, 2019

Melanie Bennett was never a runner but when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) 13 years ago, she began thinking about muscles and her body differently.

“Up until about three years ago, I walked with either a cane or walker, as my MS was quite aggressive,” said Bennett, who just completed her first Blue Nose Half Marathon.

Completing 21.1 kilometres is an impressive feat in its own right, and this is Bennett’s fourth half-marathon since October.

But this race was special for the Dartmouth native, as it’s not only her hometown race but she was also representing the MS Atlantic team, who raised more than $5,000 for the Canadian MS Society.

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“It is probably the most important thing that I’ve ever done to date with running,” Bennett said post-race.

Bennett was just 30 years old when she was diagnosed with MS and realized how precious it was to be able to move.

“It was being taken away from me day by day and I will never take that for granted,” she said.

Bennett went through Lemtrada treatment, which she says is a form of chemotherapy and was a “last option” to fight back against the disease. She says it has given her a new lease on life but in the process, she had to learn to walk again.

From there, Bennett built up her strength and began powerwalking. Then she took to running and hasn’t looked back.

“I would run seven days a week if I could,” she said. “It’s a very freeing feeling.”

Bennett was among the more than 10,000 runners who took part in the weekend-long festivities. The Blue Nose Marathon features seven categories of races, with the marathon and half-marathon feature races going Sunday.

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This was the 16th annual Blue Nose Marathon and there was a real buzz in the air and hustle on the streets as runners snaked their way through Halifax.

“We consume the downtown core and then move into the north end and south end,” said Sherri Robbin, Blue Nose Marathon executive director. “But even leading up to it, you can start to really feel the sense of excitement about it. There’s a certain buzz in the city and a heightened awareness of it. There’s just a lot of energy.”

The June heat may have played a factor for the runners, as well as the modified course. This year’s race was pushed back three weeks from its usual Victoria Day long weekend date to accommodate the Memorial Cup.

Bridgewater native Cal DeWolfe won the men’s marathon title, while fellow Dalhousie grad Clara Lownie won the women’s marathon.

For Lownie, from London, Ont., it was the second time running the Blue Nose and first time running in Halifax since graduating last year.

“I’m tired but I love that course and it’s a beautiful day and really I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” said Lownie.

“It’s just amazing how much support goes into this race. There’s a lot of people all along the route cheering for you. I know a lot of people here so it was amazing to see them out on the course.”

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There was a scary moment at the finish line, where race organizers confirmed a medical emergency had taken place, as a race volunteer standing nearby said the man had collapsed from cardiac arrest after completing a run.

Race volunteers tended to the man until paramedics arrived and performed CPR before an ambulance took the man to hospital. Race officials couldn’t give any details on the man’s condition.

Following the race, organizers say they will look at this year’s event and determine whether to move the marathon back to the May long weekend next year or make a permanent change of date.

Race officials say they’ll make the announcement next month.

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