Learning About MS and Getting Dirty to Help: Our Chat with Peter Hopkins

Learning About MS and Getting Dirty to Help: Our Chat with Peter Hopkins

As part of our partnership with the National MS Society in an attempt to help bring awareness to and encourage people to get involved with the MuckRuckus MS Philly, we'll be talking with a number of people whose lives are affected by MS on a daily basis and who have also been involved with the MuckRuckus MS Philly in years past. We're hoping you can JOIN US in participating in this year's run on June 9th in Newtown Square. You can sign up to join The700Level.com team to run alongside us here, and if you'd rather just donate to help a good cause that is also appreciated.

Admittedly, we were initially a bit intimidated by the idea of running 5 miles through mud and obstacles but after chatting with today's interview subject, Peter Hopkins, he helped us turn that intimidation into excitement.

Peter is a 53-year-old Church Choir Director and musician at St. Peter's Church at 3rd and Pine Streets in Philadelphia -- "not exactly a profession you'd equate with mud running," he says. Neither is "professional sports blogger" for that matter.

Peter's wife, Paula, was diagnosed with primary-progressive MS in 2005 and he viewed the MuckRuckus as a fun way to try and show support for her and the many others fighting the often invisible disease. We spoke with him on Tuesday about both MS and his experiences running through the mud.

Enrico: From my experiences, a lot of people don't seem to fully understand what Multiple Sclerosis is exactly. Having dealt with it on a daily basis, how do you explain what it is to those unfamiliar?

Peter Hopkins: The big problem with MS is that it's usually invisible. The person having the problem, unless they're incredibly severe and they're out in public, you'd never see them like that. If they're really sick and feeling the symptoms then they withdraw from public. MS limits your ability to move in many, many different ways. It's different in different people. Some people lose the ability to walk or to walk very well. Some people lose the ability to stay standing up for very long which limits their ability to do things. Most people with MS are very intolerant of heat. For you, you might think a nice 80 degree day might be beautiful outside, but for someone with MS, they can't go outside, they've got to stay in the air conditioning.

It's almost all invisible. There are no sores on their body or you don't look different. That's one of the hard things for people to understand, that they don't see the see the symptoms like many other diseases. For most people with MS the symptoms come and go. My wife has the kind where the symptoms are always there. For some people you may go several months without symptoms. Normally when a person is feeling all of the symptoms of weakness and things, that's when they stay home and kind of withdraw from company for a while until they feel better again. So the next time you see them they look normal again and sometimes they actually feel normal too. That's one of the hardest things about MS is that the symptoms come and go for most people and that they're almost all invisible.

Enrico: How did you get involved with the MuckRuckus?

Peter: I had been kind of interested in the concept before I even saw the MS one. My own story was that I never exercised in my life. I was a severely obese person for most of my life. I used to weigh about 300 pounds. Finally at about age 48 I decided to get really serious about things and I got a trainer and lost most of that weight. I saw something on the Internet about the mud run and it looked interesting and it kind of snowballed from there. We got other people doing it, started fundraising, started having fundraising boot camps.

Enrico: I'm going to attempt to do the MuckRuckus this year but I'm a little intimidated and a little (a lot) out of shape. Do you have any advice for people like me?

Peter: It's easy to be intimidated, but one of the nice things about this MuckRuckus is that it is true that almost anyone can do it. It's about 5 miles but you don't run that whole time non stop. You can't. You have to stop and do the various obstacles and things that are in it. There's some built in rest. And next, virtually all of the obstacles and especially the more difficult ones, you can just decide not to do that one. There are a couple of obstacles that involve ropes and heights and you can just decide you don't want to do those. You can just walk around them. Three-quarter of the people are in the non-competitive division and you do what you want. I force myself to do all of them including the couple that really freaked me out the first time. You'll find you can do a lot more of them.

Enrico: You've done the MuckRuckus a couple times now, is there a certain obstacle or a moment that sticks out the most?

Peter: You get to let out your inner 8-year-old boy. I'm not sure that works as well for the girls, but a lot of them enjoy it to. You just get to be filthy. It's pretty hilarious. How often do you get to be absolutely covered in mud and dirt in front of thousands of other people doing the same thing. There's something kind of freeing about that part of it.

Enrico: What kind of people typically run in this event?

Peter: There are all ages out there. It's not just people in their twenties who are super fit personal trainers. There's every kind of person out there. There are people that are far older than me.

Enrico: Is your wife appreciative of the effort you and all the other runners put in?

Peter: Oh yeah. We have a good time with it. So many people know her and know about her struggle and how she keeps working. She's a musician as well and admire her for it. So I've gotten a lot of donations, not because of me but because of her. She's the one that works harder than I do everyday just to be mobile and to do things. With MS it's very tempting just to go to bed and for many people just to give up, but most of them never do. If they can do that, then I can get dirty for one day.

*

Peter also suggested those interested in training in center city to get in touch with Mike McLaughlin at Radius Fitness at their website here. We may put ourselves through some of his training and report back in the coming weeks.

There are also a bunch of other training options rounded up at the MS Society site here both in the suburbs and in the city. You can see them all here.

Previously: Join The700Level at MuckRuckus MS Philly in June to Help Fight Multiple Sclerosis

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.