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

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't characterized by a whole lot of winning, but he'll still likely be remembered fondly by Sixers fans as being one of the original members of the process.

It's always an emotional time when a fan favorite departs for another city and a new team instead of seeing the championship aspirations many had for them in Philly through to fruition.

Noel posted an emotional message to his Twitter account on Thursday evening thanking the city of Philadelphia and its fans for the support they showed him through the ups and downs. 

The tweet contained the hashtag #Philly with a couple of exclamation points with a screenshot of a note that read:

What an exciting journey it’s been… To have such an amazing city embrace a kid from Boston coming out of Kentucky the way y’all did, is something I’ll truly never forget. And even through the ups and downs I never doubted the love here and that won’t change. Thank you to everybody that’s believed in me and supported through #TheProcess.

Love! -NN4

Noel was traded earlier in the day to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks.

Bryan Colangelo will address the media on Friday morning to discuss his rationale behind moving Nerlens.

Related:

>>Every reason why the Nerlens Noel trade was unjustifiable 

>>Video: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid say their goodbyes 

>>Joel Embiid reacts to Nerlens trade on Twitter: 'Trust it'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”