“I Will Inspire” was the theme of the “all abilities” races I participated in at Florida Orthopaedic Institute on Saturday. Although this was the first “I Will Inspire” 5K/1 mile walk, run or wheel event, it’s now going to be held annually, which is great news for those of us looking for ways to get out and compete — either against other participants, or against our own best times. Hosted by Florida Orthopaedic Institute, the event was organized by The New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club, and they did an amazing job. Proceeds will support Operation Helping Hand, dedicated to supporting the needs of families of wounded veterans, and the I Will Foundation, focused on helping those who are challenged by life-altering injuries and illnesses.
Saturday’s run, walk, and wheel events were a reflection of the missions of the organizations that were involved. We were there to show everyone, especially people living through adversity in their lives that we can live our lives to the fullest by achieving goals that we think are otherwise unattainable. Of course Westcoast Brace & Limb was there, represented by staff members and patients. Even Greg Bauer, president of Westcoast, brought his 7-year-old daughter and she ran right beside him in one of the races. I was thrilled to be part of Team Westcoast!
This event offered a lot of variety. There was the 5K run and a 1 mile Fun Run. Both of these events were open to all abilities. This is the only event I have been in which allowed people using handcycles and wheelchairs to stay together with the runners if they wanted to. Some racers used wheelchairs or walkers, crutches, prosthetics or braces. I was wearing my special running legs, and ran the entire 5K race beside Bridget Lawler, my prosthetist at Westcoast. I felt very inspired watching so many people overcome many physical challenges and achieve what I suspect some may have at some point thought would be impossible.
A very memorable part of the event for me was when I got to talk with Matt Long. Matt was a New York City fireman who was hit by a bus while training to run a marathon. After the accident, Matt said he was determined to continue reaching for his goals. He told me that eventually he was able to resume training and competing in marathons, despite his injuries. Matt has written a book, “The Long Run”, to share his journey and experiences. After his book, Matt started the “I Will” foundation to help others overcome adversity in their lives.
I really enjoyed running in the 5K race on Saturday. I think it’s events like this that help all of us continue to chase our dreams. When you can see and be with other people who are overcoming major challenges in their lives, it does — and it should! –inspire each of us to set our sights on achieving more than we ever imagined possible. I can’t wait to do it again next year, and I hope you’ll join me!
Bobby Puckett is a bi-lateral, below-knee amputee, a competitive hand cyclist and marathoner, and a Patient Ambassador at Westcoast Brace & Limb.