(Editor's note: This story originally ran in the Fall 2014 issue of Psoriasis Advance. We're pleased to present it here, with a 2017 update at the end.)
The Tough Mudder obstacle course is often called the toughest event on the planet.
It covers more than 10 miles and features 20 obstacles, but for Steve Bishkoff, 45, of Oakhurst, New Jersey, there was one additonal challenge: his psoriatic arthritis (PsA).
Diagnosed in 2009, Bishkoff, who is a member of the NPF Board of Directors, wasn't always athletic. But when his wife, Tracy Bishkoff, 48, finished colon cancer treatment five years ago, the pair committed to changing their lifestyle through exercise and clean eating.
"It has had a tremendous effect," Steve Bishkoff said. "Before, I wasn't sedentary, really. I played golf, but I wasn't moving my body a lot. I had aches, pains, swelling, but a regular exercise program, different diet and my current medicine have had a very positive impact on the disease."
So much so that last October, the Bishkoffs took part in the Tri-State Tough Mudder together. Already 5K veterans, they trained for 12 weeks through a special program offered at their gym. But Tracy Bishkoff said nothing could prepare them for the intensity of the event, which she describes as "scary and intimidating."
Like all Tough Mudders, the Tri-State course features obstacles – including an electrical gauntlet – designed by British Special Forces, and "your job is to get everybody on your team through," Steve Bishkoff said.
He took that job very seriously.
"I'm so proud of him. I probably would not have gotten as far in the race as I did without him," Tracy Bishkoff said, adding that she broke two ribs on the fourth obstacle. "He was faster – he could have kept up with people further ahead – but he stayed with me."
Tracy and Steve Bishkoff
Steve Bishkoff, who continues to train for races and other challenges, said staying active has made him the strongest he's ever been, and his PsA has become much more manageable.
"If you push, if you train hard and put the work in and put your mind to it, you can do anything," Bishkoff said.
2017: Bishkoff battles on
Steve Bishkoff was diagnosed with psoriasis around 2003. He went looking for information on psoriasis and immediately found NPF. He began volunteering with us, particularly with advocacy issues. In 2011, he was recruited for the NPF Board of Directors by his friend Krista Kellogg, who is now a past board chairwoman.
When Bishkoff first decided to make a radical change in his health, "I was just trying to get off the couch and do something," he recalled. "I joined a gym. That's how I found out about the Tough Mudder. I thought, 'I really want to get one of those orange headbands.'"
Since getting off his couch, Bishkoff has participated in five Tough Mudders, a dozen more races featuring obstacle courses that were designed by such fun-loving groups as the Navy SEALs, multiple 10Ks and 5Ks, a half marathon, and "several others I'm forgetting." He's part of a team, "a core group of like-minded friends" who call themselves the Fatty Tunas. "We train hard, race hard and then drink beer at the end," he said. Bishkoff also stays active by skateboarding, bike-riding, running and hiking. "I guess the bug bit me pretty hard," he said. "But I want to keep moving so I can keep moving."
Bishkoff, who is the Business Development Director and Technical Recruiter for an IT staffing agency in the New York City area, has been taking the biologic Humira (adalimumab) for the past 12 years and is satisfied with the results. In the past year he's been slowed by arthritis in one knee and some leg injuries, "but I am working on getting past that."
The Bishkoff's 17-year-old daughter, Ali, has been bitten by the same bug as her father. The two will run in a U.S. Military Academy race at West Point in August. Tracy Bishkoff, however, hung up her cleats after that first Tough Mudder in 2014. "She got it under her belt and out of the way, and that was that," Bishkoff said.
Here are three more stories about people with psoriatic disease who are running and hiking:
Paul McGarrigle, Running for his own cause
Heather Durocher, Putting my best foot forward
Mark McGraw, Psoriatic arthritis won't slow me down
(Story updated 2017 by Steve Bieler.)
Driving discovery, creating community
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