Sunday, November 28, 1999

Disabled woman does 2 marathons

Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — Stacy James didn't win marathons in New York City and Columbus, but both races were victories for her. Ms. James, recovering from a paralyzing neck injury, completed both courses in her wheelchair.

        Grit, determination and faith, along with several months of training, helped Ms. James propel herself along the streets and bridges that make up the 26.2-mile New York course. She was accompanied by her mother, Helen James, of Columbus, as well as a guide from New York's Achilles Track Club, an organization of disabled people who enjoy competing athletically.

        “It was the hardest, most amazing thing I've ever done,” Ms. James said.

        She admits being fearful of the challenge. New York City was unfamiliar territory, and despite building her strength and dexterity through wheelchair sports, she wasn't sure she was equal to the marathon's physical demands.

        “The farthest I had gone prior to that was 12 miles, and that took me six hours,” she said, “but Mary kept at me.”

        Her friend Mary Bryant thought that, with help from the Achilles Track Club, Ms. James could manage the marathon.

        “I knew that through the club we were able to allow her to have at least two volunteer guides,” said Ms. Bryant, a motivational speaker who volunteers with the organization.

        Ms. Bryant, a cancer survivor, last year ran a marathon while in chemotherapy.

        “I knew what it was like to run with a challenge,” she said.

        At 8 a.m. on Nov. 7, three hours before the official starting gun, Ms. James left the starting line with about 300 other handicapped athletes. Ms. James' mother, Helen, and the Achilles guide walked beside her, giving the wheelchair a push when Ms. James' arms grew tired.

        The marathon took Ms. James 111/2 hours. It was dark and cold when the three crossed the finish line, but they were incredibly happy.

        “Stacy could have quit anytime during the marathon, but she didn't,” said her mother.

        “I could have never, ever done it without my mom,” said Ms. James.

        After completing the New York course, Stacy James decided to enter the Columbus marathon, scheduled the following Sunday. Again, her mother accompanied her the entire distance and a friend joined them for the last 10 miles.

        Propelling herself through two marathons in a wheelchair is just the most recent accomplishment for Ms. James, who broke her neck eight years ago in a swimming pool accident. At the time she was a college student and active in athletics, music and a campus Christian fellowship.

        The accident meant months of hospitalization and rehabilitation. Armed with her faith and much determina tion, Ms. James defied a doctor's prognosis that she would never walk again. Seven months after the injury, she walked out of the convalescent hospital with crutches. Two years later she walked across the stage to receive her college diploma and started driving again in a specially equipped van.

        Ms. James believes that God spared her because he has a purpose for her life, and she works full-time for Campus Crusade for Christ at Miami University and Wright State University.

        “I might not ever walk without my crutches here on Earth,” she said. “But I have found that walking victoriously in life actually has nothing to do with legs. It is our attitude, and what is inside our hearts.”

        Visit Stacy James' Web site at


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