Walking tall

Nathan Carlisle plans to cover 100 miles to honor fiancee, raise funds to pay medical bills

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Karenna Mathis listens to her fiancee Nathan Carlisle Tuesday as he describes his plan to walk 100 miles to support Mathis after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis recently.

POST FALLS - This morning, Nathan Carlisle will begin walking.

And walking.

And walking.

He won't stop, he says, until his feet have covered 100 miles. He'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how long it takes, no matter how trying it becomes.

"I've never done anything like this before," the 28-year-old said. "I'm going to do it, though."

And the reason was sitting next to him on a bench at Beck Park off McGuire Road on a cold, but sunny Tuesday afternoon.

That would be Karenna Mathis, his fiancee.

The 25-year-old was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January after undergoing surgery for what was first believed to be a tumor. Turned out, Mathis said, to be a lesion caused by MS.

The operation and following medical care left the Post Falls woman struggling to walk and a stack of bills - and Carlisle is determined to help.

An online fundraiser received little attention, so he wondered what he could do to raise money.

He could walk, he decided, such a long ways that people would take notice. They would ask. They would wonder what he was up to, why he was walking so far, so long, through the day and the night.

His trek will take him to Rathdrum, back through Post Falls, to Spokane, through Coeur d'Alene to Wolf Lodge, then back to Beck Park, where it was started.

Carlisle believes it will take 34 hours, an average of about 3 mph.

Doable, says the solid 5-11, 220-pounder.

"That's the only thing that stuck in my head," he said. "I'm going to do it."

He'll do it for Karenna, his future wife.

He has no doubts.

"I am very dedicated. When I was I'm Seattle starting my new job I slept in my car for 3 weeks and the only thing that kept me going was our future," he wrote.

The two met two years ago at North Idaho College, where they were chatting about their professor outside the class.

Almost love at first sight.

"His eyes," Karenna said of what attracted her to Nathan. "His smile. He was pretty funny, kind of shy and I liked that."

Nathan is blunt about why he fell for Karenna.

"She's beautiful," he says, in body, and spirit.

Despite the toll of MS, mentally and physically, and the rising medical costs, Karenna fights on.

"She's inspired me, how much she's done," he said.

Nathan didn't know much about MS when it hit the woman who's the center of his life.

It was last year when Karenna noticed a tingling in her left leg, and felt weak.

Her vision, she said, blurred every now and then. She tired, which was unusual, and found it difficult to stay awake.

"It was unlike any kind of feeling I'd ever felt before," she said.

"There was nothing I could do to stop being tired except sleep. I never felt like that before."

Some suggested she might be depressed, or just needed more rest. Initially, she didn't worry.

"I really didn't think much of it," she said.

But then the symptoms worsened, the mother of a 5-year-old girl turned to the medical community. Doctors eventually determined she had MS.

Since, it has been a constant struggle of good and bad, of crying and questioning, of digging in and regaining determination. There are days, she said, when it's hard to just get out of bed.

"Yesterday was one of those days," she said, smiling.

Nathan's vow to walk 100 miles, she said, is comforting and uplifting, and at the same time, concerning because he'll be alone.

"I'm very proud of him for doing it," she said. "It makes me really happy that he's doing this, he's doing it to help me."

Karenna's mom, Connie Mathis of Post Falls, said Nathan is doing something "awesome."

"That's quite a commitment," she said. "I've very impressed with his commitment to her."

Karenna, she said, will come through this challenge, too.

"She's a strong person. She's got a lot of family support. I think she'll do OK," Connie Mathis said.

Nathan said Karenna's spirit inspired him to "really do something big," something he didn't imagine he could ever do. So determined is he, that he's pushing ahead solo. He won't have a support crew. He won't have anyone waiting for him with food and drink. He'll carry or buy it along the way.

He's still trying to rustle up clothing that will keep him warm and dry through the night, when the temperatures are expected to drop into the 20s. He doesn't even know what shoes he'll wear.

He'll carry his cell phone, will watch out for vehicles and will be careful.

"I'm going to layer up. I don't think I'll have a huge problem," Carlisle said. "Other than that, I'm just hitting the road."

He's hoping people will donate, perhaps 25 cents a mile, perhaps a one-time, flat gift. Anything he raises over the $8,000 goal to pay Karenna's medical bills will go to the MS Research Foundation.

Carlisle said he would welcome companions in hoofing it through the night.

"That would be great," he said. "This is my first time walking this many miles. If they want to jump in, it'd be nice to have company."

He doesn't plan to stop often to rest or eat, but rather, just push through. Forget exhaustion. Forget blisters. Forget aching muscles.

He plans to videotape the entire walk and post it, "for the world to see."

"I'm not worried about getting tired. I'm sure my muscles will get sore and I will get blisters but I will not stop till it's complete. Once I set myself to something my family knows nothing gets in my way. I have always put people before me, even if that means putting myself through hell to do it."

Once the Post Falls native completes his quest Saturday night, he knows what he'll do to celebrate.

"I'll probably want to go to bed."

To donate or for more information: nathanquincy@yahoo.com, (206) 495-5337, or at Karenna's MS Fund under groups on Facebook.

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