Joyce Kelly (right), who has the neurological disorder CMT, still trains with her running group: Photo by Kim Leeson

Joyce Kelly (right), who has the neurological disorder CMT, still trains with her running group: Photo by Kim Leeson

Consider Joyce Kelly. She has no feeling in her lower legs or feet. It’s one of the effects of having CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth), a degenerative neurological disorder that breaks down nerves in the extremities. Walking on grass or other uneven surfaces can be tricky for her. But that hasn’t stopped the White Rock-area resident from being a triathlete.

Kelly had been running since college. After she was diagnosed with CMT in 2010, she didn’t quit. Instead, she hired a coach, Morgan Johnson with Playtri, the triathlon training facility and store at Mockingbird and Abrams. Wanting to learn more about CMT to improve Kelly’s training, Johnson contacted Dr. Robert Chetlin, a leading CMT researcher and exercise physiologist. With his help, Johnson devised a training strategy.

“We started working on muscles that weren’t affected yet,” Kelly says.

Soon her balance improved, and her competitive times were better. “If not for Morgan, I wouldn’t be competing, and I would probably be in leg braces,” she says.

Not content to simply manage her disease, Kelly wanted to do more to raise awareness—and funds. “I’m big on paying it forward,” she says. That’s where her career came in handy.

A Realtor for Nathan Grace Real Estate in Lake Highlands, Kelly is active in the MetroTex Association of Realtors and is on its Realtors in Action committee. She put to work her energy and enthusiasm, both of which she has in abundance, and convinced MetroTex to host a race that benefits CMT research.

It wasn’t an easy sell. “I was told, ‘We’ve never done anything that big,’ “ she says. “I think my enthusiasm and the fact that I have this disease [swayed the committee] … It was like, ‘Can you pull this off, Missy?’ and I’m like, ‘Watch me, Baby!’ “

The DFW Get Fit! Race, which is scheduled for May 3 in Irving, will be sponsored by “real estate-centric” businesses. “Our goal is for it to become known as the ‘Realtor Race,’ “ she says. Kelly wants the event to promote the real estate industry as well as raise awareness about CMT. “CMT is just now starting to come into its own with awareness,” she says.

“Since this is our inaugural race, we’re expecting about 1,000 people,” Kelly says. There will be a chip-timed 5 and 10k and a family fun run. There also will be fitness-themed activities for both children and adults. Playtri is race-directing, and everyone who signs up will receive a six-week “Get Fit” plan from Playtri.

The race benefits the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation. Kelly says the bulk of the proceeds will go straight to research, with which Chetlin is involved. “The cure for [CMT] is going to be so cutting-edge, and we’re within a couple of years,” she says. “It’s going to help people with Lou Gehrig’s, it’s going to help people with Multiple Sclerosis; there are scientists all over the world waiting for this.”

And of course Kelly is more than willing to help once the FDA gives them the go-ahead. “I’m one of the lab rats,” she says.

Kelly wasn’t able to train as much as she’d like to this winter because of seasonal viruses, to which people with CMT are susceptible. But she hasn’t let that get her down. “I think attitude is a decision,” she says. “Just decide you’re going to be happy, and be happy.”

Registration is open for the DFW Get Fit! 5k and 10k To learn more,