I’ve always been a pretty active person: when I had my heart attack and leg amputation at age 16, I had been the co-captain of my high school tennis team. Since then I’ve never shied away from physical activity, whether going zip-lining, playing tennis, parasailing, dancing, swimming, or skipping public transportation to walk all over New York City whenever I can. But in the 17 years since my above the knee amputation, I’ve never formally learned how to run on my prosthetic leg. So last weekend I jumped at the chance to join Ossur (the prosthetic leg company that makes my artificial knee) and the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) for a special running clinic.
I met up with Travis Ricks, a fellow Above Knee amputee and paratriathlete with CAF, who led the charge, organizing us into groups with coaches who taught us the basic mechanics, depending if we were above or below the knee amputees. Those of us who don’t have a knee (like me), have to rely on the momentum of our other leg while paying special attention to the length of our strides and where we land on the mechanical foot (so it doesn’t buckle).
We did a number of drills, including some backwords running, grapevine side-stepping, and a final obstacle course.
I met some amazing fellow athletes, including Diana (above), who had only been walking on her leg a year, but had an impressively smooth running stride. I was especially inspired by some of the little kids, many of whom picked up the techniques right away and looked so natural. I met athletes who had been amputees since birth, others who lost their legs to cancer, some who were in hit-and-run accidents, and war veterans. No matter what we’d been through, we all shared the same desire to test ourselves, explore what is possible, and live a life with no limits.
I also enjoyed meeting Doug Olsen from CAF, who told me about many of the programs CAF and Ossur offer, including grants for athletic legs. I love that Ossur and CAF offer these opportunities to empower athletes and build communities. Looking forward to getting more involved with Challenged Athletes and Ossur, as well as taking my running and tennis game to the next level! Stay tuned…