“You could carry your burdens lightly or with great effort. You could worry about tomorrow or not. You could imagine horrible fates or garland-filled tomorrows. None of it mattered as long as you moved, as long as you did something. Asking why was fine, but it wasn't action. Nothing brought the rewards of moving, of running.” ~ Scott Jurek
Achilles International is an organization about letting go of the burdens endured by disability, an organization about providing hope and possibility. Achilles is community enabling forward motion for many. The community is diverse yet collectively enables encouragement, accountability and achievement of goals that individually could not be achieved. Despite limitations, athletes with a range of disabilities congregate in Central Park for weekly workout sessions; pushing limits, building confidence and seeing measurable success. Once a year the Achilles community at large comes together to celebrate efforts, progress and achievements at the annual Achilles Hope & Possibility 5 miler.
Sunday, June 30th 2013 marked the 11th annual Achilles Hope & Possibility 5-mile race. Some 3,874 people showed up on the beautiful, summer morning to support and celebrate all that Achilles International delivers every day, week and month of the year. An organization that eliminates barriers, connects people and enables challenges to be overcome. Justin Gennaro an Achilles wheelchair athlete and Hope & Possibility 5-mile finisher was born with spina bifida. Despite having a spinal disability Justin is continually overcoming barriers and achieving great successes. He said shortly after crossing the finish line “If it wasn’t for Achilles I wouldn’t be out here, I would have never achieved this goal. Now I have a new goal, that’s to do better and beat my time at next year’s Hope & Possibility race!”
When people come together with a shared goal and aspire to achieve greatness hope becomes abundant and possibilities are limitless. Achilles athlete and Hope & Possibility finisher Colleen Kelly Alexander was struck by a freight truck while riding her road bike on October 8, 2011, just twelve days after completing a 600 mile ride. Doctors said Colleen’s ability to run, ride or swim was forever lost. “On this day, I was moments away from meeting my creator. After 78 units of blood, many surgeries, and God working through many doctors and nurses, I am alive and embracing every second. Never give up! Someday, by the grace of God – I will ride, swim and run again.” Through pure grit and determination Colleen has overcome her diagnosis and regularly competes in road races and triathlons as an Achilles advocate.
One of the many lessons I’ve learned through my involvement with Achilles is that challenges in life do not define us or our limits, it’s how we react and adapt to obstacles that arise during life’s journey. Whether Achilles or another great organization I would encourage everyone to get involved. The benefits and friendships that are gained in our own lives through our contributions and involvement are immeasurable.