LINO LAKES — It took a Lino Lakes resident four hours and 17 minutes to complete this year's Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, a feat she accomplished despite never having run a marathon before and having Parkinson's disease.
“My goal (for doing Grandma's Marathon) was to stay healthy and share my story so others know they can keep moving. It is possible, even if you have these ailments, to keep going,” Erica Podobinski said.
“I want there to be more knowledge of the disease and research done to try to find a cure and better treatments.”
Before meeting her husband, Mark, in 2012, Podobinski said, she was not a runner. In fact, in college, she tried to do track and field and ended up dropping out. She started to get into the sport that her husband enjoyed, but slowly started experiencing symptoms of Parkinson's that continued to get worse.
“When I first started getting symptoms, I would get a weird sensation in my right calf and foot.
I can't explain it. It was the oddest sensation I've ever felt,” she said. “It started to get progressively worse. I would get a mile in and had to stop. It was so frustrating. I thought I was just really out of shape. I couldn't figure out what was going on.”
One day while she was out walking, her mother noticed her right arm wasn't moving. Podobinski thought since she carried around her young daughter, Madelyn, perhaps it was from that. “I sort of blew it off, but my mom kept pressuring me to figure out what was wrong,” she said.
Podobinski visited her rheumatologist, as she thought the symptoms she was experiencing might be from the severe Ankylosing Spondylitis (a form of arthritis) she was diagnosed with in her early 30s. She also tried physical therapy and was eventually referred to a neurologist. The first one she saw had no idea what was going on, but knew something was wrong.
After visiting a second neurologist, she was officially diagnosed with Parkinson's Dec. 13, 2017. “I was sort of a disaster,” Podobinski said. “At first it was so overwhelming. As I slowly got better and built up my strength again I started running again.”
Training for a marathon turned out to be a great distraction. “It took my mind off of being plagued with Parkinson's and having that distinction behind my name, because when you first get diagnosed you tend to think the worst,” she explained. “Running helped me take my mind off of that and allowed me to focus on something else.
Podobinski enjoyed running the Grandma's Marathon so much that signed up for Twin Cities Marathon that same day. She also qualified to run in the Boston Marathon through the Adaptive Athletes program.
These days, Podobinski tries to stay as active and healthy as she can, but each day brings it struggles. Every morning when she wakes up, she immediately has to take her medication and deals with muscles in her foot contracting uncontrollably causing her foot to twist, also known as dystonia. She has to take pills every 3-4 hours.
“I don't really know what my future holds …. My goal is to be as active as I can and try to stay as healthy as I can and just keep going,” she said.
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.