His only wish is a smoother ride.
Brian Brenchley is a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy who is running his 19th career race today. However, his feet, shod with the best running shoes money can buy, will never hit the pavement. Brenchley competes in a custom racing chair, built with performance, and not comfort, in mind.
The legs of the operation, and sheer force behind the 20-pound chair filled with 140 pounds of Brenchley, is Tyler Sorenson, Brenchley's longtime friend. He's hoping to make Team Brenchley history today with a goal finish time of three hours and 45 minutes.
"I have to run faster and not break," Sorenson said.
Pioneer Day's Deseret News Marathon is the second 26-miler the pair will finish, their first a difficult run in St. George last year, where the chair was falling apart at the finish line. They've got loads of experience in 5K and 10K races but want to push themselves further, eyeing triathlon competitions next year.
"Bring it on," said Sorenson, who admits to hating running when it all began and is now in the best shape of his life. "Meeting the challenge together is a lot of fun."
The News' race is the first of four statewide Sorenson and Brenchley, both 31, plan to compete in this year, putting them in position to be what the running community calls Grand Slammers, finishing four of five marathons in the state. The next stop for Team Brenchley is Park City, then Logan's Top of Utah race and finally the St. George Marathon this fall, all four within the next 2 1/2 months.
"There are lessons to be learned," Sorenson said. "We get better with each race."
Team Brenchley began in 2004 with a collection jar mounted on the front of Brenchley's wheelchair and Sorenson's will to run. The prospect fueled their motivation in the following years, and they have finished in the top third of every race they have competed in.
"Some things you would never do for money that you would do for love," Sorenson said, adding that pushing himself to compete, as well as inspiring others with constraints similar to Brenchley's, is worth every drop of sweat and all the tears shed along the way.
"Along the routes, you see it in some people, we're causing them to think what impossible thing they can do," he said.
All his life, Brenchley, of Ogden, has been told he can do whatever he wants, and aside from sky diving, his family and friends have helped him achieve his dreams. His mother, Vickie, believes free-falling through the air would be too dangerous.
But as Brenchley is being pushed at speeds of sometimes 15 mph downhill, his family sees it as either pure insanity or sheer compassion on Sorenson's part.
"The fact that he's sitting in that chair, doing what he's doing, is a miracle in itself," said Joe Brenchley, Brian's father. "As far as we were told, he was going to be nothing and do nothing, so the fact that he is who he is, is amazing."
As a student at Weber State University, where he met Sorenson, Brenchley went to every dance and was never afraid to ask a girl out, even when it meant his friends would go without dates. He served as a section leader and sang his heart out as a tenor for the choir at the school's LDS Institute of Religion. He took just about every course offered at the institute and currently volunteers at Ogden's Treehouse Museum.
In addition to girls, Brenchley enjoys music and video games and uses his fingers to communicate, slowly typing words into a small computer that speaks for him.
"He's done a lot of things and met a lot of people," Joe Brenchley said of his son. Vickie Brenchley has been Brian's companion through it all, earning her a spot as a valuable resource for other mothers with disabled children.
"Brian might do things differently than others, but he does more than most able-bodied people do, because he goes out and does everything he wants," Sorenson said. "It's just a matter of how bad he wants it."
Team Brenchley is working on raising money to make necessary modifications to the racing chair and purchase other implements they'll need for future competitions. The pair hopes to someday establish the Brenchley Foundation, making it possible for others with disabilities to accomplish their dreams."We just have to do everything we know we can do when we know we can do it," Sorenson said.
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