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Handcycling team to compete in Salt Lake City Marathon

Handcycling team to compete in Salt Lake City Marathon



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Ed Yeates reportingSeven people with severe spinal cord injuries will be running in the Salt Lake City Marathon next week.

Eighteen-year-old Lena Schoemaker was paralyzed following an auto accident about 20 months ago. But next week she'll compete in the Salt Lake City Marathon using not her legs, but her arms and hands. Lena says, "Right from when I got out of the hospital I was handcycling immediately."

Robert Ackerman and Cody Sperandeo will be racing as well. Fourteen months ago, Robert never imagined he could do this. "I rolled my truck down a mountain delivering materials to a job site. I just broke my back," he told us.

This is the first marathon for the TRAILS Handcycling Team, an outreach program of the University Health Care's Rehabilitation Center. Therapists there challenge patients to dream and then do.

Cody says, "When I was first injured, it was like life was over, you know, but there are so many opportunities out there."

Handcycling is not easy. The hands and arms must push and pull in sync, and they tire much faster. "It's actually worse than you get in your legs because you're working with a much smaller muscle group. Your shoulders and arms are really not designed to do your walking for you," Cody said.

The three members of the team right now have full use of their hands and wrists, but you can still use the bikes even if you don't have that kind of mobility.

The founder of TRAILS, Dr. Jeff Rosenbluth, says the more the paralysis, the more the challenge. "You've got this grip here, you just Velcro this on, and even if you can't use your hands whatsoever, you just use your upper arms. You just click it in and then you can just pedal," he explained.

For Lena, Robert and Cody, life is on the move and in the fast lane, despite paralysis. "Doors shut, other doors open, you know. That's the way it's been," Robert said.

Next week's marathon is just the beginning. The TRAILS team already has its sights on a longer, 60-mile race through Yellowstone Park, perhaps even a ride across the country.

E-mail: eyeates@ksl.com

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