Woman with muscular dystrophy prepares for Southern Utah Half Marathon

Elsha Stockseth and her race partner, Ty Hansen, race down the trail at the TIMP Half-Marathon in American Fork Canyon, Utah, July 19, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Elsha Stockseth, St. George News

ST. GEORGE ­  A woman with muscular dystrophy hopes to overcome the odds as she prepares to race in the Southern Utah Half Marathon on Aug. 30.

Elsha Stockseth poses with her numbers and medal after completing the Deseret News Half Marathon on July 24, 2014, in Salt Lake City. | Photo courtesy of Elsha Stockseth, St. George News
Elsha Stockseth poses with her numbers and medal after completing the Deseret News Half Marathon, Salt Lake City, Utah, July 24, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Elsha Stockseth, St. George News

Born Aug. 28, 1983, Elsha Stockseth was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when she was 11 months old, and while the road has not been easy, she said she has not let her condition bring her down or stop her from reaching for the stars  and striving to convince others to do the same.

“I actually have always thought having muscular dystrophy as kind of awesome,” Stockseth said. “I have had so many things happen, met so many awesome people, received so many gifts and opportunities, and still done just about everything everyone else does without the disease.”

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines muscular dystrophy as part of a group of more than 30 genetic diseases that progressively weaken and degenerate skeletal muscles that control a person’s movement.  There are currently no treatment options to stop or reverse any form of muscular dystrophy, but patients can undergo various forms of therapy or surgery to aid them in improving their health.

Throughout her schooling, Stockseth said she never needed the assistance of special classes, and with the help of her mother as a teacher aide, she was even able to enroll in some honors classes.

Along with furthering her education, Stockseth said she enjoys oil painting, practicing graphic design on her computer and listening to U2, her favorite band. A defining moment in her life, she said, was meeting the band in 2005.

Elsha Stockseth and her race partner, Joshua Hansen, pose with their medals after completing the TIMP half-marathon in American Fork Canyon, Utah, July 19, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Elsha Stockseth, St. George News
Elsha Stockseth and fellow racer, Joshua Hansen, pose with their medals after completing the TIMP half-marathon in American Fork Canyon, Utah, July 19, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Elsha Stockseth, St. George News

Stockseth said U2’s music has helped her keep pushing on through her trials and has also inspired her to “pay it forward” to others in need. Each year, Stockseth spends some of her free time designing Christmas cards and donating a portion of the sales proceeds to the African Well Fund, an organization dedicated to building wells and supplying the people of Africa with clean water.

“Last year, I sold 2,300 cards,” Stockseth said.

Stockseth said her interest in racing first surfaced when some of her Facebook friends began posting about an upcoming Ragnar race. As a joke, Stockseth commented that she was interested in competing on their team, and, to her surprise, her friends said they would be delighted to push her in some races.

“We did our first 5K race a few months later, and the rest is history …,” Stockseth said. “Once I knew that I could do a 5K race, I just wanted to keep doing more races and keep doing longer ones.”

Since then, Stockseth has competed in races ranging from 5K and 10K competitions to half-marathons and triathlons. She said she hopes to one day compete in the Boston Marathon and to continue teaching others not to judge a book by its cover.

“Elsha can still go out and enjoy running just like anyone else can,” Wes Bauer, marketing director for the Southern Utah Half Marathon, said. “People like that just inspire you to keep at it and to keep running.”

The community surrounding running and racing is a good support system to help people achieve their goals, Bauer said.

Elsha Stockseth and her race partner, Joshua Hansen, race down the trail at the TIMP Half-Marathon in American Fork Canyon, Utah,  July 19, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Elsha Stockseth, St. George News
Elsha Stockseth and her race partner, Ty Hansen, race down the trail at the TIMP Half-Marathon in American Fork Canyon, Utah, July 19, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Elsha Stockseth, St. George News

The Southern Utah Half Marathon takes place two days after Stockseth’s 31st birthday, and with the aid of her running partner, Walter Brown, she said she hopes the race will be another addition to her stock of good memories.

“When I hear all the people cheering, it is really special,” Stockseth said, “and I am so proud of my pushers for doing such a great job and for allowing me to do something that would normally be impossible for me.”

The race is scheduled to begin at Washington City’s Highland Park at 6 a.m. on Aug. 30 and will stretch 13.1 miles until coming to an end at Bloomington Park in St. George.

This is the first Southern Utah Half Marathon, according to a press release from Red Mountain Running, and the event is expected to draw 250-300 participants. In the release, Race Director Steve Hooper said he hopes the half-marathon will showcase the beauty of the surrounding area to all who participate  whether from the sidelines or as competitors in the race.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to watch many runners achieve their goals on this fast downhill course, including Elsha,” he said in the press release.

More information on the race can be found on the Southern Utah Half Marathon website. Those desiring to learn more about Elsha and her journey can visit her Facebook fan-page.

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3 Comments

  • Simone August 20, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    YOU GO GIRL!!! WOOT! WOOT! 🙂 <3

  • Joshua August 21, 2014 at 1:10 am

    GO ELSHA! GO! I sure love you!

  • chris korbis August 22, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    we are so proud of you.

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