While many struggle to fit a trip to the gym into their schedule, Fond du Lac resident Amy Van Dyke will take on 351 miles and 13 days of continuous running in this year’s MS Run the US relay to raise funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis cure research.

The relay will begin April 13 in Los Angeles and end when the last runners cross the finish line in New York City five months later. Van Dyke has chosen to run two back-to-back segments of the relay, starting in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and finishing at the Nebraska border.

“I just saw it as an opportunity to use the gift of running, something that I enjoy to do, to help other people,” Van Dyke said. “It gives me purpose in my running so that I can help others in the process.”

Van Dyke has only been running for the past four years, but she said she sees this as a benefit because she was able to stay healthy and did not wear out her body when she was younger.

The first time she ran with MS Run the US last year felt really great, Van Dyke said, and her positive past experiences in the relay are what pushed her to double her commitment this year.

“What I did find out last year running the six marathons is that I felt really great the whole time, and every day got easier,” Van Dyke said. “After the six days I felt like I could have kept running.”

Such ease of running does not come without rigorous preparation, and Van Dyke said she is following the running program provided by MS Run the US four days of the week and cross-training at a local fitness club on other days to keep the rest of her body in shape.

The training program provided by the nonprofit organization gradually adds miles each week to help build up to the relay, but Van Dyke said she was still nervous before beginning the run her first time.

“You’ve done the training, but you really don’t know if you can do it,” Van Dyke said. “You hope you can do it, and you hope you’ve done everything you can do for training. But until you actually do it you just don’t know.”

Van Dyke will travel to Colorado with her family a week ahead of the run to relax and acclimate to the higher altitude.

She said she is motivated by her family, including her four teenage children, and the many individuals with multiple sclerosis whom she has met through her involvement in MS Run the US.

“The big thing I’ve learned is not to limit yourself,” Van Dyke said. “Anything is possible. If you have that motivation and drive you can achieve anything.”

In addition to MS Run the US, the relay has a partnership with celebrity Montel Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. He will travel to multiple locations over the course of the run to raise awareness and promote fundraising.

Each runner is expected to raise $10,000 for their segment of the run, Van Dyke said. Because she is running two segments, she will need to raise double that amount.

According to her fundraising website, she has raised $11,300 of the $20,000 so far. Those interested in donating can visit the site at http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/amyvandyke/msruntheus2014relay.