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Osakis mom overcomes pain, finishes marathon

Britta Alverson and her brother-in-law, Will Alverson, both of Osakis, ran the Duluth Marathon. It was the first marathon for both runners. (Contributed) 1 / 2
Britta Alverson of Osakis, who has rheumatoid arthritis, ran the Duluth Marathon last month. This was her first full marathon, which is a total of 26.2 miles. (Contributed)2 / 2

Two years ago, Britta Alverson wrote a post on her Facebook page about her dream of running Grandma's Marathon in Duluth. However, a medical diagnosis more than a year before kept her from fulfilling that dream — until now.

Britta, along with her brother-in-law, 17-year-old Will Alverson of Osakis, and his cousin, 19-year-old Brady Tongen of Annadale, completed the 26.2 mile race June 26.

"It was amazing," said Britta, the 27-year-old mother of two from Osakis, who in February 2015 was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

RA, which it is commonly referred to, is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect a person's joints, as well as damage a wide variety of body systems including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels, according to the Mayo Clinic website. RA occurs when a person's immune system mistakenly attacks its own body's tissues. The disease, which has no cure only treatments, affects the lining of joints, causing painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.

Before her 3-year-old daughter, Marlow, was born, Britta said she would have sporadic joint pain. But, during her pregnancy, the pain went away so she never went to the doctor.

When her daughter was about 6 weeks old, however, the pain returned. Britta said even though the pain was there, she still didn't go in right away. It was about a year later that she finally paid a visit to her doctor.

During this time, Britta said she had been training for a half-marathon, which is 13.1 miles. She completed the race and then decided to take a month off of running, which is when she eventually went to the doctor.

"When I went in, the doctor didn't think it was anything significant," she said.

But then, after the bloodwork came back, it was determined that Britta had rheumatoid arthritis.

She had swollen, achy joints and she said it was painful to walk on flat surfaces. She said it was also hard to pick up her daughter because of the pain.

The first, short-term treatment plan was being put on prednisone, a steroid used to treat many diseases and conditions, especially those associated with inflammation.

The second, long-term treatment is a once weekly injectable prescription, Enbrel, which is used to treat five chronic diseases including moderate to severe RA.

So far, Britta said the treatments are working and allowed her to be able to run the Duluth marathon.

Before making the decision to run, Britta said she spoke with her rheumatologist who gave her the greenlight. The hardest part about the whole thing, said Britta, was the training. But not because of her condition.

"It (the training) was time consuming, especially with two kids. But my husband would hold down the house when I would run," said Britta. "It really didn't have that much of an effect on my RA."

Britta said she had a goal of finishing the race in 4 hours and 45 minutes and that she succeeded her goal by completing it in 4 hours and 42 minutes.

"It went so fast," she said. "Every mile that came, I couldn't believe it was another mile. It was so fun. And I felt really good."

Britta's brother-in-law, Will, ran the race in 4 hours and eight minutes. Because he was in track and in cross-country, Will said he "didn't really train" for the marathon and that at first, his goal was 3 and a half hours.

"The last six miles took me out of that," he said, but added that he was really happy with his time.

Will also said he thought it was "pretty cool" that even though his sister-in-law has such a "bad disease" she was able to run the full marathon.

"That is such a huge accomplishment," he said. "I think running really helps her take her mind off it. She just focuses on the running."

Will said he plans on running the Twin Cities Marathon in 2019 and Britta said she would love to run another marathon, but she's not sure.

"I would like to, but it takes so much time to train for it," she said.

For now, she'll keep running, but not at that distance, because running makes her feel better. She said it's good for her to keep moving because it helps to keep her joints lubricated.

Her advice for others with RA: "Just keep moving anyway you can."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. She enjoys running and has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon distances.

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