GREAT CRANBERRY ISLE/MDI – Imagine having a hard time tying your shoes. Spilling your morning cup of coffee. The simple things that aren’t so for Great Cranberry Isle resident Michael Westphal.
“If I don’t talk I can calm down I can sit still,” he said.
“But as soon as I start talking it gets worse,” he added.
It’s the constant battle Westphal faces every second of every day as he’s been living with Parkinson’s disease for the last 12 years.
“Oh it’s very annoying because you’re in social situations and you can’t stop moving,” he said.
But he’s learned to live with it, every step of the way.
“You just have to push through it, push through the pain and pace yourself. I’m not going to run any record races anymore,” Westphal said.
Westphal has Parkinson’s disease. Instead of letting the disease beat him, he’s continued to battle it by running half and full marathons.
“The friendship and the support I’ve gotten from the Maine running community has been tremendous,” he said.
It’s a community that Westphal has been a part before Parkinson’s. The Great Cranberry Isle resident ran at MDI High School and later went on to compete at the University of Maine.
“One year we left our top ten runners home from a small race and I won the race and that was fun,” Westphal said about his days in Orono.
He continued to race after college, even winning the Paul Bunyan marathon in 1980. But, he eventually took a step back.
“I was a runner through my mid 30s. I raced a lot and then family life took over, I coached little league and spent time with my kids I didn’t race much,” he said.
Shortly after, the symptoms started.
“I started feeling symptoms in 2003. Tightening in the muscles in the left arm, left shoulder and it got progressively worse,” he said.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a couple years later and only recently has he returned to running.
Thanks to an old friend.
“I was inspired by Gary Allen,”
Allen and Westphal grew up on the island together, in 2013 he ran from Cadillac Mountain all the way to Washington DC in two weeks.
“I figured if he could run 50 miles a day I could get up off the couch and run four miles down the end of the island and back.”
Marathon’s big and small. Great Cranberry Isle, MDI, Boston, New York. You name it, Westphals done it.
“I think that any of us feel like if we’re tired or feel like we can’t do something in life you just need to look towards Michael Westphal and if you’re not inspired by that you aren’t paying attention,” Allen said.
Westphal’s once again defied the odds this fall at the MDI Half-Marathon.
“Yea he looked pretty strong the whole race, pretty happy that he finished strong,” Westphal’s brother Rolf said.
With his brother and the entire island cheering him on, Westphal finished with a time of 1:42:36 a 7:48 mile pace.
“Lot of locals watching today so it was nice to do it in front of them,” Westphal said after the race.
“For him to continue on to do the things that he loves is just amazing very inspiring and I’m just so proud of him. He’s showing everybody you just gotta keep doing what you love to do and battle through it and you can do anything. I’m totally in awe of what he’s doing,” Rolf said.