Last spring, an acquaintance told Heckman about a 26.2-mile marathon that was being held in conjunction with the Arthritis Foundation that October in Dublin, Ireland. Her friend said she would run the race in Heckman’s honor. That was good. But it wasn’t enough.

“I knew I couldn’t run that race but I thought I could walk it — and I knew I wanted to try,” says Heckman, who at that time was going through a divorce. She contacted the drug company that makes Arava and asked them to sponsor her in the race. They agreed and on July 31, she began training.

“I had to work hard to get ready,” she says. “That first mile I’d walk each time would be just excruciating, but once I got through it I felt I could walk forever,” she says. On Oct. 25 Heckman walked 26.2 miles through the streets of Dublin to complete the marathon.

“It was great,” she says. “It was a challenge. Because of my divorce it was both a physical challenge and an emotional one. But it made me feel so good about myself to accomplish what I set out to do.

“I’ve made a choice to concentrate on doing the things I can do,” she says. “My advice to other people with arthritis is to do the same. Start out slowly, then go a little further. Some days you might not be able to do much of anything — but try again. You’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. You’ll be surprised.”

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