Tony Marquez remembers the feeling.
"I woke up in the middle of the night with this weird sensation," Marquez recalled, soon realizing that he couldn't talk or feel the right side of his body.
Half of his body was paralyzed.
As he lay in a hospital bed waiting for doctors to tell him what had happened, the fear of never walking again was at the forefront of his mind.
He was in his mid-20s and was just starting a family with his wife after welcoming their first son into the world six months earlier. But in that state of fear, the unknown, he made a promise to himself.
"I said if I had the chance to walk again, I want to run and I would take full advantage of that," Marquez said.
Bound for Boston
It's safe to say Marquez of Waukesha has taken full advantage of his opportunity.
Almost 20 years after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Marquez, 44, is doing more than just walking. He has become a successful marathon runner and, come Monday morning, he'll realize another one of his goals: He'll run in the Boston Marathon.
"I'm looking forward to it, so I'm excited but nervous as well," said Marquez, the longtime owner of the Mexican restaurant La Estacion in Waukesha. and previously Jalisco's on Whiterock Avenue. He also owns the Mexican eatery El Jardin in Janesville.
It's not uncommon for any runner to have this feeling before a big race. After all, it's the Boston Marathon, the granddaddy of marathons. But when Marquez recalls the journey it took him to get here, he is extra grateful.
"I always take a moment and give thanks before beginning a run," said Marquez, who grew up in Chicago before moving to Waukesha to start his restaurant business.
At the time of Marquez's initial episode in which his body went numb, he was operating two restaurants and stress was prevalent, a trigger of MS. He said he also wasn't eating or exercising properly.
That all changed after his diagnosis, as he looked to better control his stress and alter his diet.
But Marquez admits it was a struggle.
While he was in the hospital, the doctors first put him on steroids to relieve the inflammation. He was on the medications for about a month, but during this time he learned alternative treatments were available. He decided to go this route after experiencing unpleasant side effects, Marquez said.
During this time, he was also introduced to Janet Golownia, who had experienced similar circumstances with the disease and was running marathons. Golownia of Wales, now a certified nutritional coach and friend to Marquez, turned to a more holistic nutritional approach to fight the disease.
"After talking with her and seeing how normal she looked and how similar her story was to mine, I immediately became inspired to want to do the same," Marquez said.
He said it took close to a year to recover, and he initially needed a cane to get around. But once he regained his strength, he started swimming and gradually short walks in the park.
Eating better and exercising regularly now, he then revisited his goal from the hospital bed of running.
A training partner
He started with runs in Frame Park. That's where his running was taken to the next level thanks to a chance encounter with someone who will be keeping an eye on his results Monday.
One day in Frame Park, Marquez met Paul Paikowski, an avid runner. Marquez could tell that Paikowski, now 53 and a retired Waukesha police detective, knew what he was doing. Paikowski, after all, has run in three Boston Marathons. The two soon struck up a friendship and would take casual runs together.
But at some point, the two lost contact — that is, until the two met up again at the Trailbreaker half-marathon in Waukesha in 2014.
It was at that point Paikowski realized how much Marquez had improved his running ability in recent years, a period during which Marquez participated in multiple marathons and half-marathons across the state.
"I couldn't believe how much he had improved," Paikowski said.
After that race in Waukesha, Marquez turned to Paikowski to help him train for the Lakefront Marathon in an effort to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
"He told me, 'Paul I trust you,'" Paikowski said.
So over the next several months, Paikowski, an Army veteran, had Marquez on a strict regimen leading up to the Lakefront Marathon. Marquez's hard work paid off, shaving off nearly 30 minutes from his personal best to qualify at 3 hours, 15 minutes.
"It was amazing what he accomplished at 42 years old," Paikowski said. "He earned it and displayed such pure heart. Tony became the best running student anyone could possibly ask for."
Given the obstacles it took to get to Boston, he hasn't set any outlandish goals for himself. After all, it's been a challenge to train outdoors, given that the winter season has held on longer this year. Instead of running outside — something he prefers to do — he has trained inside the Pettit National Ice Center.
"I just want to have a good race and anything around 3 hours and 20 minutes and 3 hours and 30 minutes, I would be happy," said Marquez, who will be joined in Boston by his wife, Maria.
Marquez is also happy that he is running for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society charity. In advance of the run he sought $5,000 for MS and on select days at the restaurant in recent weeks a portion of proceeds went to the charity.
While he doesn't take medication anymore for his MS, he knows a flare-up could occur if he doesn't continue to take care of his body.
That's why he takes vitamin supplements regularly — especially to get enough vitamin D. Marquez has had a couple of minor episodes in the years since his diagnosis, but nothing would stop him from running.
"Running has kept me healthy," Marquez said. "I see the condition as a blessing. I made it a priority to not take my body for granted. It was really life changing."