Getting Gusty One Mile at a Time

Every muscle in my body was screaming at my brain to run. My heart was pounding in my ears and I tried to keep my breathing as regular as possible. It felt completely surreal as I looked up and saw Jon Stewart, yes, (that Jon Stewart) giving a speech just a few feet away from me. I took a deep breath, looked straight ahead and prepared to face one of the bravest moments of my life.

It all started seven months ago. I was entering the Spring Semester of my senior year at Rowan University and was looking for a final internship opportunity. I asked for advice from mentors at Rowan, and was put in touch with Achilles International.

Achilles International is a non-profit based out of NYC. Its mission is to help wounded veterans and people with disabilities get physically active again through marathons. They provide training, equipment, and encouragement for anyone who wants to get involved.

My gusty moment began when my supervisor asked if I’d like to participate Achilles International’s 5th annual Hope and Possibility 5 miler. The race is held every year in NYC’s Central Park. I’m not a veteran, but I was born with a physical disability called Cerebral Palsy which effects my muscles and my ability to walk without a walker or wheelchair.

I would run the race by using a hand-cycle. A hand-cycle is similar to a bike, but instead of using pedals, the machine is propelled using my hands. I hadn’t had the opportunity to participate in sports before, so my immediate answer was a hesitant yes. I was nervous, but was assured by everyone that I would be fine.

The months rolled along and before I could blink the day of the race was here. I was excited, but I was equally as nervous. Travel constraints prevented me from practicing with my hand cycle, so the first time I used it would be race day! I did my best to practice for little bit before the race, but my inexperience and clumsiness with the machine was obvious. Luckily, I had two experienced guides and my sister to help me during the race.

I sat at the beginning of the start line with the sun in my eyes and a thousand thoughts in my head, the biggest being, ‘Don’t crash, don’t crash, don’t crash’. Suddenly, the speech ended, the bell went off and I started my race.

Thankfully, my crashing was minimal and I completed the race. It took me a long time and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret one second of my experience. I jumped into a challenge with both feet and my eyes wide open to a new adventure.

Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.

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