Moving Mountains for Epilepsy Awareness

The Cinnamon Pass Road air is thin as Jenny LaBaw blasts through the last 10 miles of her 20 mile day. Cinnamon Pass Road, at an elevation of 12, 650 ft. above sea level, is one of the highest Colorado mountain passes. LaBaw has hit day 5 of her 30 day, 500 mile run across the Colorado Rockies for epilepsy awareness.

LaBaw was diagnosed with simple partial seizures at age 8. Now 33, LaBaw has set out to #MoveMountains and bring attention to the disorder. LaBaw pauses at the Cinnamon Pass sign that reads 12,690 ft. She smiles at her team and begins her decent into a canopy of green, gold and red aspen trees.

Day 6 and LaBaw rises with the sun. It will be 13 miles before LaBaw crosses the Henson Creek Bridge in Lake City, CO, signaling the end of her first week and the beginning of her 36 hour rest period. This day, LaBaw runs for Lydia Schaeffer, a seven-year old girl who passed from Sudden Unexpected Death of Epilepsy (SUDEP) on May 11, 2014. Lydia was unable to access the Cannabidiol Oil (CBD Oil) she so desperatly needed to control her epileptic seizures. 3 miles before LaBaw crosses the Henson Creek Bridge, she breaks into tears telling Lydia’s story. This run is so much more than placing one foot in front of the other.

Jim Schoenberg, owner of CrossFit Sandstorm, was diagnosed with epilepsy in April 2009. It wasn’t until the night before Day 1 of the #MoveMountains 500 Mile run that Jim told his two young boys he suffers from the disorder. Jim started the conversation with his boys shortly before joining LaBaw on the first 14 miles of her 24 mile run, September 19.

Leah Yates, a mother of three, was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 18. Waking her family from their comfy beds in Albuquerque, NM at 3:30 A.M., Yates drove them to the New Mexico/Colordao border to run with LaBaw on opening day.

Matt Hamblin, owner of Smart Pest Solutions in Phoenix, AZ and recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism, made the 8 hour drive to the New Mexico/Colorado border to run with LaBaw. Hamblin not only made the first 24 miles, but supported LaBaw throughout Day 2 and Day 3, completing 50 miles total.

Climbing Ivy, an Ultramarathon runner, also a mother of three and type 1 diabetic from Silverton, CO, saw LaBaw running up Coal Bank Pass. Instead of flying by at 55 miles an hour, she pulled her Isuzu Trooper over in the first available turnout. She parked the car, got out, and marched with LaBaw up the steep grade.

Day Six, as LaBaw finishes her run into Lake City, a sudden craving for gluten-free pancakes consumes her. With no cafes in town offering gluten-free pancakes, Linda, owner of Poker Alice-a restaurant that does not even serve breakfast-offers to cook the pancakes if the team can find the ingredients. A successful trip to the local organic market leaves the team with a bounty of ingredients. Linda works her culinary magic on the griddle: hot pancakes await LaBaw upon her arrival. It turns out that Linda has been suffering from pneumonia. She is so exhausted from cooking that she retires to her room and is placed on oxygen.

Team members are reminded that people are genuinely good.

Finally, here on Day 7, Jenny’s rest day, we sit at Chillin Café on Lake City. A tall, lanky man, Andy Frei, ambles past us. We learn that Andy is walking 3,100 miles from the Canada border to the Mexico border in honor of his mother who has been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. A crowd of strangers gather around Andy as he tells his story. Tear flow as individuals, strangers only moments before, embrace one another.

Yes, people are genuinely good.

Seven days and 123 miles down, LaBaw has 23 days and 377 miles to go. In the words of Katie Raines, a woman who passed from SUDEP and whom LaBaw runs in honor of, Jenny is going to “keep moving forward.”