North Side running club dedicated to beating Parkinson's Disease

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Running is in North-Sider Chris Dell's blood.

"I did my first triathlon here in Chicago in 2001 and it instantly set the hook," Dell said. "So the next year I did a full Olympic distance. then after that I went on to a half iron man distance."

He went on to complete 25 short course triathlons, 17 half Ironman competitions and seven full Ironmans.

Starting a running club in his neighborhood seemed like the natural next step to take. But the runners in this group share more than an enthusiasm for pounding the pavement. They're all fighting Parkinson's Disease, a neurological disorder, through exercise.

"The hallmark of Parkinson's Disease is a loss of dopamine and with that comes motor dysfunction," said Dr. Danny Bega, Northwestern Medicine neurologist. "The physical symptoms are tremors, stiffness, slow movements, trouble with dexterity."

All of these symptoms come over time and to date, there's no cure for the disease.

"There's no medication for the disease, but the one thing that is clinically proven to slow the progression of the disease is rigorous daily exercise," Dell said.

"You know there's one side we all have in common and that's the clinical side, that's from the doctors' perspective," runner Doug Blanchard said. "But this is the people side of things; it's supporting people without judging. We're all in this together and the more we support each other the better it will be for all of us in the long term."

"We're all fighting a common cause. Each of us has our own struggles and challenges but each of us is fighting Parkinson's in their own way and working to beat it," Bob Bansfield added.

That's why every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, you can find these guys at the Montrose Lakefront Track.

"I came up with this mantra and the mantra is simply this: BEAT Parkinson's. BEAT is an acronym: Be Extremely Active Today," Dell said. "By being active today you give yourself the best possible chance for tomorrow."

And even though every day is different from the last, these men keep their hope for a cure, moving forward one step at a time.
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