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

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

The Eagles are coming off two straight losses and the slate doesn't get any easier with the 5-0 Vikings coming to town.

It also marks the return of Sam Bradford, who was traded just before Week 1, paving the way for rookie Carson Wentz to start.

The Eagles kick off against Minnesota at the Linc on Sunday at 1 p.m., so it's time for our (cough) experts' predictions for the Week 7 matchup.

Dave Zangaro (2-3)
I'll admit, this game just has a weird feel. It has the feeling like the Eagles might be able to catch the Vikings sleeping after their bye week and hand them their first loss of the season.

I was almost tempted to pick the Birds in this one.

But I'm not.

Ultimately, the Vikings are just the better team. I'm not sure how the Eagles are going to put up points against them. And I'm not convinced the Eagles' defense will be able to stop anyone after what we saw last weekend.

They keep it close, but the Birds fall to 3-3.

Vikings 20, Eagles 17

Derrick Gunn (2-3)
The good news is Minnesota's offense is ranked 30th in the league and the Vikings' run game is dead last averaging 70.6 yards per game. 

The bad news is the Vikings' defense is a monster, ranked 2nd overall and first in points allowed at 12.6.

There is not a weak link in the Vikings' D and they are fundamentally sound across the board. The Eagles' defense vows that what happened to them at Washington — allowing 230 rushing yards — won't happen again. 

Carson Wentz got roughed up by the Redskins' pass rush, and unless the Eagles' offensive line plugs the leaks, more of the same could happen this Sunday. The Birds have every reason to rebound at home, but I just don't like the overall matchup. 

Vikings 20, Eagles 13

Ray Didinger (2-3)
The Vikings aren't going undefeated. You don't go 16-0 in the NFL with a 30th ranked offense which is what the Vikings have. Yes, their defense is very good. Going back to last season they have held each of their last nine opponents to 17 points or less. They are deep, fast and well-coached by Mike Zimmer. But the offense led by Sam Bradford coughs and sputters a lot.
As a result, the Vikings will play a lot of close, low-scoring games and somewhere along the line they are going to lose. It could even happen this week when they play the Eagles. Special teams could be huge. The Eagles have a big edge with kicker Caleb Sturgis. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh has already missed three field goals and two PATs. However, the Vikings return men -- Marcus Sherels on punts, Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs -- are very dangerous. I expect the Eagles to keep it close but in the end I have to go with the superior defense.
Vikings 21, Eagles 16

Andrew Kulp (2-3)
Which Eagles defense shows up on Sunday? If they can limit Minnesota's anemic ground attack, which ranks dead last in the NFL, this should be a close game. Sam Bradford is playing really well, but it's not like he's airing it out all over the place.

Then it becomes a question of how Halapoulivaati Vaitai responds to a rough debut. The Vikings pass-rush is fierce, so it doesn't get any easier this week. As long as the protection gives Carson Wentz a chance, that will at least give the rookie signal-caller a shot at making a few big plays.

For some reason, I like their chances at both. It's going to be another ugly one, but the Eagles do just enough to squeak by.

Eagles 20, Vikings 19

Corey Seidman (2-3)
I foresee a low-scoring game in which the Eagles are more competitive than some might think.

But in the end, the Vikings have the personnel and the defensive-minded head coach (Mike Zimmer) to get key stops down the stretch.

Vikings 20, Eagles 16

Andy Schwartz (1-4)
You’re still reading? 

Well good for you. Much appreciated. 

Because clearly I certainly don’t know what to expect from this team. 

But let’s forget all that for the moment and look at the Bradford Bowl. 

The Vikings’ offense is hardly scary (30th in the league in yards per game behind the Rams and Niners), but their defense is (second in yards per game behind Seattle).

The Eagles’ offense is hardly scary (22nd in yards per game), and their defense (sixth in yards per game was pretty scary a few weeks ago.

So let’s look at the intangibles. Which team needs this game more? The Eagles. And they’re at home. 

But given the outcomes the last two weeks and that Minnesota is unbeaten and coming off a bye, it certainly makes sense to pick the Vikes, who are favored by 2.5.

Then again, the Eagles not too long ago were unbeaten and coming off a bye … and we all know what happened.

So I’ll say the Birds pull off another upset and remain unbeaten at the Linc. 

Just don’t bet on it.

Eagles 6, Vikings 5

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.