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Multiple sclerosis diagnosis steered Dalton resident toward endurance competitions

Tim Burke was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, but that hasn’t limited his determination to compete in races and endurance competitions throughout the northeast.

In fact, the diagnosis sparked a competitive fire in Burke.

Having served as the Dalton postmaster for the past six-and-a-half years, Burke decided he wasn’t going to let the disease dictate his future.

“I have lived with multiple sclerosis for nearly 20 years and decided that, instead of living with the fear of disability, I would make MS live with me,” Burke said. “I’ve always jogged for recreation, but in 2009 I started running more seriously.”

Burke and his wife, Susan, will host the inaugural MS Myelinator 5, a five-mile race or two-mile fun walk, starting at noon on Memorial Day, May 25 at the Dalton Fire House and continuing on the Countryside Conservancy Trolley Trail out and back.

The Dalton resident felt the Trolley Trail would be the ideal place for the race.

“I wanted something that was personal to me and to involve the community that I both live and work in,” Burke said. “The trail was the perfect venue. The Countryside Conservancy has been very helpful in allowing this (event) to happen. Their support has been greatly appreciated.”

Burke completed the Steamtown Marathon in both 2011 and 2013 and cherished the experience of meeting new people.

“I enjoyed the friendships, camaraderie and all the support,” he said. “It has become a running family.”

Finishing the race in 2011 led the Burkes to a new venture - coaching at the Scranton Running Company.

“My wife and I heard there was a (running) group,” Burke said. “We just wanted to run with other people and join that community. We signed up for the Barrier Breakers Program and, during the next session, they asked us to coach.”

According to Burke, the program is for beginner or intermediate runners looking to get in shape and eventually run in races.

“The program is designed to take people who have never run before, which is a significant barrier, and start them out walking,” Burke said. “By the end of the 12-week session they are competing in a 5K race. It’s rewarding to see the impact that we can have on other people’s lives. It’s a pretty amazing transformation for some of these people.”

The transition to long distance running while dealing with a disability presented obstacles for Burke.

“The challenges were fatigue and muscle weakness,” he said. “My right foot would drop, causing me to fall a lot. Core strength training and exercising a lot is what got me through the worst of it. It’s sort of counterintuitive to think that the more you exercise, the more energy you have, but that’s the truth, at least in my case.”

He credits his wife for helping him fight through difficult situations and continue working toward his goals.

“Susan has been one of my biggest inspirations,” Burke said. “She gives me the strength to continue even when I feel like I can’t or I don’t want to.”

Burke is currently on the National MS Society’s Team for the 2015 Panasonic NYC Triathlon July 19 and funds raised through the Myelinator 5 will support that cause.

“I enjoy the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of euphoria after a good run,” Burke said. “As far as distance events and marathons, it’s about the sense of accomplishment when I can overcome my disability and finish strong. It’s an inspiration to others to see someone with a potentially disabling condition breaking barriers.”

Runners can sign up by visiting, clicking the line of the race’s Facebook page htps:// or stopping in the Scranton Running Center.

Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by GOLACKAWANNA
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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