Amy Donaldson: Hand cyclist aims to finish Boston Marathon, prove 'anything is possible'
Photo courtesy of Katie Terry
AMERICAN FORK — Katie Terry shares the same dream a lot of runners have: finishing the Boston Marathon.
What makes her unique is how she will go about making that dream a reality.
The single mother of two will be one of eight wheelchair athletes to compete in this April's iconic marathon. It is the culmination of years of training for the hand cyclist who said she hopes to prove to her own children, as well as others, that "anything is possible."
Terry didn't know what her future would hold when a car accident nearly nine years ago paralyzed her from the waist down. Just after learning she would never walk again, doctors told her she was pregnant with her daughter.
Life was alternately beautiful and devastating for a period of time. Through it all, Terry approached it with the kind of determination that once made her a collegiate soccer player. She knew she would find a way to be an athlete again, but it took her a while to find hand cycling.
"It took some time learning how to 'relive' again, one day at a time," she said. "But I did it. I made a list of all of the things I was going to do again, and one by one, I checked them off. I soon realized that everything is possible, even if you have to be a bit more creative doing it."
It was in trying to find "normal" that Terry realized she could be an example of determination, endurance and hard work.
Her mantra became, "It's all mental."
Then three years ago, as she searched for a "cardio workout," she found hand cycling. She borrowed a hand cycle from the National Ability Center (in Park City) and began riding 12 miles two to three times each week.
"During one of my rides, I decided I was going to see if I could participate in the St. George Marathon," she said. She sought permission and was allowed to participate. When she crossed the finish line, she said she was flooded with emotions she'd never before experienced.
"It was awesome," she said.
She was hooked on the sport. She became a member of the Utah Hand Cycle Team, which affords her the opportunity to race all over the country.
"It was great to meet others who had the same passion I had," said Terry, who is looking for financial help and sponsors for her trip to Boston next month.
She understands she's not the kind of "charity" most companies or individuals would think about donating to, but she's hoping someone sees the opportunity to "advertise" with her as a way to reach a different audience. The best way to donate or support Terry is by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I appreciate any help," she said. "For me, this reinforces the belief that I have in myself that I can still do anything I want. It's such a highly regarded race, and if you can do it, it's kind of like you're for real. I've worked really hard to get a qualifying time."
Since that first race, Terry has accumulated a long list of accomplishments, including being the first hand cyclist included in Ragnar Relay's Wasatch Back.
For her, difficult isn't a roadblock. It might slow her down, change her direction or her approach, but she said she's learned that determination can take her anywhere she wants to go in life.
"I want to be an example to my kids," she said. "I want to open people's eyes and get rid of that stigma that someone in a wheelchair can't do certain things. And physical exercise does so much for you physically, but also mentally."
She loves sharing her many experiences with youth groups. She loves seeing the looks on their faces when they talk about what she's accomplished.
For her, it is redefining possibility one conversation, one experience at a time.
"I love that I am able to share that with others," she said. "There is nothing I can't do. Everything is still possible."
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