‘Life is so precious’: ALS athlete’s 50-state marathon quest rolls through Sparta

North Carolina's Andrea Peet completes marathon in Sparta raising money for ALS research, goal to complete races in all 50 states

SPARTA, Wis. (WKBT) – What would you do with your time if you didn’t have long to live? Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a disease with no cure affecting 30,000 people in the United States. Andrea Peet’s life changed after an ALS diagnosis seven years ago.

ALS took away her ability to run, but it didn’t touch her spirit to roll forward. Now she’s traveling the country on a quest to find hope in her life’s final moments. Memories play out inside Shaw Hipsher’s mind.

“She started a blog about her triathlons and the blog took a turn,” said Hipsher, a college friend and volunteer of Andrea’s nonprofit the Team Drea Foundation.

She reflects on those memories of her friend who embodies everything people expect from an athlete.

“Andrea is relentlessly hopeful,” Hipsher said.

Peet and her husband David made plans.

“[They] wanted to have children and had just bought a house when this diagnosis came in,” Hipsher said.

ALS cuts a big piece from a person and forced Andrea to change her plans.

“When you have been given the news that you’re gonna die, your priorities get real clear real fast,” Peet said.

Doctors can’t do much for those with ALS.

“It is not a disease where they say, ‘okay here’s three things we can do,’” Hipsher said. “They instruct you to get your affairs in order.”

Peet’s spirit remains untouched.

“If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything,” Peet said. “I’m very fortunate.”

ALS on average takes a person’s life in three years. However, swallow tattoos on Peet’s arm mark every year passed since her diagnosis, seven and counting.

“Just start putting one foot in front of the other and who knows where it’ll lead,” she said.

Peet travels the country completing marathons on a mission.

“I’m out here for everyone,” Peet said.

So far she’s raised $600,000 for research through her foundation and travels. Her recent stop happened in Sparta.

“It is my honor to be able to still do this,” Peet said.

She can’t run anymore, but her set of wheels (recumbent trike) keep her moving, forward.

“There was no medicine to try, no hope,” Hipsher said. “Andrea’s mission is to find that hope.”

“Who knew Sparta is the bicycling capital of the world?” Andrea said. “I love it. It’s awesome.”

Her goal, finish races in all 50 states. Wisconsin is 35, Minnesota is 36.

“She has found tremendous purpose,” Hipsher said.

These are the moments athletes live for.

“I felt great,” Peet said.

A race seems impossible until Peet crosses that finish line.

“What excuse do we have?” Hipsher said.

A pioneer making the most of her time left in this life.

“Life is so precious,” Peet said. “Just appreciate what your body can do.”

New memories were created out of a passion to find a cure. A passion that won’t save her life, but perhaps someone you love.  Peet plans to finish her goal in Alaska in May of next year.

Peet would become the first person with ALS to complete this feat. Peet documents her journey through her Team Drea Foundation. She is trying to finish this as fast as she can because she doesn’t know how many days she has left. To follow her journey on social media, visit the following links (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).