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Running down a dream: Osakis mom overcomes pain, finished marathon

Britta Alverson and her brother-in-law, Will Alverson, both of Osakis, ran Grandma's Marathon in Duluth last month. It was the first marathon for both runners. (Contributed) 1 / 2
Britta Alverson of Osakis, who has rheumatoid arthritis, is shown running her first full marathon in Duluth. (Contributed)2 / 2

Two years ago, Britta Alverson wrote a post on her Facebook page about her dream of running Grandma's Marathon in Duluth. However, a medical diagnosis more than a year before kept her from fulfilling that dream — until now.

She completed the 26.2-mile race June 16.

"It was amazing," said Alverson, the 27-year-old mother of two from Osakis, who in February 2015 was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

RA, which it is commonly referred to, is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect a person's joints, as well as damage a wide variety of body systems including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels, according to the Mayo Clinic website. RA occurs when a person's immune system mistakenly attacks its own body's tissues. The disease, which has no cure, affects the lining of joints, causing painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.

Before her 3-year-old daughter, Marlow, was born, Alverson said she would have sporadic joint pain. But during her pregnancy, the pain went away so she never went to the doctor.

When her daughter was about 6 weeks old, however, the pain returned. Alverson said even though the pain was there, she still didn't go in right away. It was about a year later that she finally paid a visit to her doctor.

During this time, Alverson said she had been training for a half-marathon, which is 13.1 miles. She completed the race and then decided to take a month off of running, which is when she eventually went to the doctor.

"When I went in, the doctor didn't think it was anything significant," she said.

But then, after the bloodwork came back, it was determined that Alverson had rheumatoid arthritis. She had swollen, achy joints and she said it was painful to walk on flat surfaces, and hard to pick up her daughter because of the pain.

The first, short-term treatment plan was being put on prednisone, a steroid used to treat many diseases and conditions, especially those associated with inflammation.

The second, long-term treatment is a once weekly injectable prescription, Enbrel, which is used to treat five chronic diseases including moderate to severe RA.

So far, Alverson said the treatments are working and allowed her to be able to run the Duluth marathon.

Before making the decision to run, she she spoke with her rheumatologist who gave her the green light. The hardest part about the whole thing, she said, was the training. But not because of her condition.

"It (the training) was time consuming, especially with two kids. But my husband would hold down the house when I would run," Alverson said. "It really didn't have that much of an effect on my RA."

Her goal was to finish the race in 4 hours and 45 minutes, a time she beat with three minutes to spare.

"It went so fast," she said. "Every mile that came, I couldn't believe it was another mile. It was so fun. And I felt really good."

She ran Grandma's with her brother-in-law, 17-year-old Will Alverson of Osakis, and his cousin, 19-year-old Brady Tongen of Annadale.

Will Alverson ran the race in 4:08. Because he participated in cross country and track and field, he said he "didn't really train" for the marathon and that his goal was three and a half hours.

"The last six miles took me out of that," he said, adding that he was really happy with his time.

He also thought it was "pretty cool" that even though his sister-in-law has such a "bad disease" she was able to run the full marathon.

"That is such a huge accomplishment," Will Alverson said. "I think running really helps her take her mind off it. She just focuses on the running."

He plans on running the Twin Cities Marathon in 2019 and Britta Alverson said she would love to run another marathon, but finding the time to train for it is difficult.

For now, she'll keep running, but not at that distance, because running makes her feel better. She said it's good for her to keep moving because it helps to keep her joints lubricated.

Her advice for others with RA: "Just keep moving any way you can."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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