Nikki Sanford Goes the Distance to End Multiple Sclerosis

News / June 8, 2018

Seattle patent attorney runs equivalent of eight marathons in eight days; raises more than $11,000 and counting for MS research

Two pairs of Asics Gel Nimbus running shoes – one yellow, one black – carried Associate Nikki Sanford across 205 miles of remote highways and dirt trails through the Mojave Desert to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. During her eight-day journey in April as the sole segment two runner and one of 19 total relay team members for MS Run the US – a 3,100-mile relay run across America – she ran past desert valleys populated with jackrabbits, desert lizards and burros; rugged mountains and canyons; desolate towns and even a sea of solar panels in an open field.

Marathon vacation?

After six months of grueling training that consisted of running 25 hours a week and working 50 hours a week, Nikki said the run – which was about 8 to 10 hours per day, including prep and recovery time – was “like a vacation.”

“When I was training, I would run in the morning, go to work for about 10 hours and then run some more,” Nikki said. “I would also weight train three times a week and run about 20 miles on Saturdays. Typically, I ran a total of 50 to 65 miles a week.”

In contrast, during her segment of the relay – Barstow, California, to Las Vegas – Nikki said, “all I had to do was run.” “I would listen to music and audio books, catch up with friends on the phone and just clear my head. Every day after I finished running, I had time to stretch, relax, spend time with the crew members who became friends, and in some towns, check out the often bizarre local tourist attractions.”

Combining passion with purpose

Nikki began running in law school as a way to take a break from her studies and spend time outdoors. It quickly became a passion, and within a few years, she ran her first marathon. After a second marathon, Nikki wanted to find a larger purpose for the distance running she grew to love.

“I wanted to use my fitness for a greater purpose while doing something big – something not many people would do,” she said. “I came across an article about MS Run the US and was immediately intrigued by the scope and distance of the run. The idea stuck in my mind for a couple weeks until I decided to reach out to the organizers. As soon as I saw how passionate and dedicated they are to the cause, I knew it was something I wanted to do.”

The people

“One of the best parts of the trip was meeting people,” Nikki said. “The hospital in Barstow held a kickoff event, including the first segment’s relay runner, the mayor, local news stations and hospital staff. Seeing the community rally around us and show how much they appreciate our efforts was very inspiring.”

Likewise, more than 60 researchers and doctors at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas welcomed Nikki with a celebration at the end of her run.

“The entire eight-day experience was an amazing adventure,” Nikki said. “I don’t know any other way I would have been able to do something like this. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I would do it all again.”

Making a direct impact

Nikki tackled her fundraising goal with the same vigor as her training. “At first, it was a little overwhelming to think of hitting the $10,000 goal,” she said. “But last fall the organizers arranged with other running organizations for me to set up a booth at several races to fundraise. The firm and individuals in the Seattle office – and other offices – were very generous with their contributions. I also reached out to my law school and undergrad alumni organizations for support. Family and friends made up the rest of the donations. Surprisingly, I learned that most of them know someone with MS, and they were all very appreciative of what I was doing.

“While running a 205-mile relay segment is an accomplishment that may draw a lot of interest, I hope to direct that attention toward MS awareness and raise as much as I can to help MS Run the US continue to make a direct impact on so many affected by the disease.”

To date, Nikki has raised more than $11,000, which will go directly to funding MS research. She continues to raise funds through Sept. 1, 2018.

The finish line

The segment nine runner is in Wray, Colorado, beginning her six-day, 166-mile run to Holdredge, Nebraska, on June 6. The last segment of the run ends in New York City on August 10 with a celebration at the finish line. Nikki and many of this year’s relay runners will attend.