THE TRICKY MECHANICS OF RUNNING

FROM: Katy Sullivan, Track and Field

It’s interesting to me, this whole world of Paralympics. It’s not something that I ever saw myself doing, even though I’ve had my physical circumstance since birth.  I never really saw myself as having a “disability,” and I always believed that I could do whatever it is that I wanted, as long as I worked hard and trusted in myself. 

That way of thinking has taken me far. I grew up in the theatre and got my BFA in performing before heading out into the world of professional acting.  It’s been tough in some ways, trying to get casting directors to see me as a “person,” not a “disabled person” -- but there have been many times that I was able to get my foot in the door simply because it WAS a prosthetic foot.

Having spent most of my life in the acting world, when I was given the opportunity to try running by my prosthetist, Will Yule at Hanger Clinic, it was really taking a huge step outside of my comfort zone.  It took me weeks just to figure out the mechanics of a simple jog, since I had NEVER run in my life.  My goal was to have running be an option for exercise and fitness, not to be on Team USA -- that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility!  Early on, attending a track meet, I remember asking my coach, “Can’t I just sing the National Anthem?” That seemed much less terrifying than that 100 meters stretching out before me.  But what I learned though all of this is that the original perception of hard work and belief in one’s self can not only take you places that you planned on going, but also to places beyond what you dreamt possible.

Training now is worlds away from where I was at the beginning of my running career. Back then, it was about making it from point A to point B without falling on my face.  OK, let’s be real -- it’s STILL about that, but with much more specificity.  We recently changed a number of key pieces of the puzzle that is my 100 meters.  I have brand-new running feet that are very different from the ones I had previously.  We changed my start completely around so that I am standing now.  We are focusing on my core work and the first 30 meters of my race more then ever before.  

It’s amazing how much goes into sport, but even MORE so with Paralympic sport. 

Not knocking able-bodied athletes in any way, but for me and my teammates, we not only have to keep ourselves in peak working order, we also have all our equipment to concern ourselves with as well.  My running legs are held on by vacuum, and if one piece of that chain isn’t working, I can’t run that day, regardless of how I’m feeling physically.  It’s the same with wheelchair sprinters and seated throwers: if our equipment fails, we fail. 

I’ve learned more about myself throughout this chapter in my life then I ever thought I would, and I’ve met some of the most spectacular people, who take limitation and push past it with such grace and determination that I am in constant awe of the human spirit.  I have been lucky enough to call these people my teammates. 

I’m really looking forward to this track season and ultimately, hopefully, London.  But there is so much more to this.  It’s the opportunity to look around myself miles from what I thought was possible and appreciate the journey that I’m taking. 

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