NY Marathon Legend Dick Traum & the Kiwi Team…

dick traum vertical

By Rachel Grunwell: Mum, marathoner, yoga teacher, award-winning writer, blogger and ambassador for the Achilles Charity and Cigna.

The Achilles Track Club for disabled athletes is in the world because of this legend, Dr Dick Traum, who I’m so happy to meet re the pic.

On Nov 5, he will be among hundreds of Achilles athletes from throughout the world participating in the NY Marathon. It will be his 65th marathon mission.

I’ll be amongst it too as a proud guide, leading a blind Auckland runner, Tamati Pearse. We are among a cool team of 23 from New Zealand headed by the National Manager John Bowden. And we are among hundreds of Achilles athletes from throughout the globe here for the big event that attracts over 50,000 runners and 3 million spectators.

I’ve been an Achilles ambassador for about four years in New Zealand and so it was epic to catch up with the man behind Achilles.

A bit about Dick: The Achilles journey for Dick started aged 24. He was hit by a car at a gas station and lost his right leg above the knee. In 1976 he completed the New York Marathon, becoming the first to complete such an event with a prosthetic leg.

He later started up the Achilles Track Club in 1983, encouraging people with any kinds of disabilities to take up running. He knew the power of running to transform minds around marathons. People achieve more than they believe in running and it filters through to their every day lives to propel them to be more successful and happy.

At the NY Marathon this year, there will be people using hand crank cycles, prosthetics and guide ropes among the thousands of runners. And thanks to Dick, this is now just mainstream. There will be a sea of yellow t-shirts on the course and they get the loudest cheers.

I met Dick at an Achilles black tie gala dinner set up to fundraise for the charity the other night. I was lucky enough to be invited; The table cost $10,000 that I was sitting at (for about ten people to attend our table) alone…

Dick spoke about his dream for “mainstreaming” of athletes, the joy of achievement and the power of the group to motivate success.

Mainstreaming is about changing the perception that people with a physical challenge are frail. “People are just missing an arm or something,” he explains.

The glam gala dinner raised over $100,000. The night was hosted by Kirstin Cole, a TV news anchor, who has been involved for a long time with Achilles.

Some key note speakers included:

Anthony Butler, who lost his sight as a victim of a near fatal shooting. Facing homelessness, he turned his life around and went onto get his masters in social work and Achilles helped him through this life-changing journey as a motivating force.

Former TV host of the Daily Show and award-winning comedian, Jon Stewart, spoke too about why he is part of the group.

“These athletes show heroism, resilience…. They lift others up by what they do,” he said. “They don’t define themselves by their worst day”.

He then became teary as he spoke about how the charity has even taught his own son resilience though coping with a debilitating health ordeal.

Master Sgt Cedric King spoke about how his legs were blown off while in Afghanistan while on his second tour in 2012. He spoke about being part of Achilles and participating in events after his accident and how this has helped him “to be me again”.

He spoke of how you lose so much of yourself after an accident like he had, but conquering events like marathons and later an Ironman has made him feel good that he again can achieve things again that “I never thought I was able to do”.

He is a proud member of the Achilles Freedom Team, which is full of wounded war veterans.

I met a few at these inspirational ex war vets at the Achilles dinner a few nights later. At that dinner, hundreds of athletes were here from places like Jamaica, Romania, South Africa… everywhere! British athlete Richard Whitehead, who holds the world record for athletes with a double amputation was even among us.

I’m inspired, always, by the NZ Achilles athletes that I’m surrounded by. They are a positive bunch of go-getters who are trail blazing in their own way and inspiring others to follow their courageous actions to tackle something beyond tough. Some athletes don’t even realise it, but others are watching from afar in awe of their success. I can’t wait to hear their marathon journey stories after race day and beam along with them at their success. Although we will beam anyway in those bright yellow t-shirts, of course.

achilles ny team 2017

Achilles NZ team 2017.

It will be a hard day on Sunday running the NY Marathon for me. A marathon is never easy. I’m just a mum runner from a small country. Guiding is even harder because of the extra responsibility – I never take that lightly. But the athlete I’m guiding, Tamati, is a joy to be around and we will have fun out on the course. I’ll describe everything I see so Tamati can tap into more of the experience. No super hero out on the course will go un-noticed! It will be an honour to be by Tamati’s side and be joined too by two American guides we will meet on the day. We will need the extra help to keep Tamati safe. Here’s a pic of him below beaming next to me at a half-marathon training run we did in Tauranga in NZ recently.

tamati and rach tauranga half

This will be Tamati’s 4th marathon and he’s excited. This will be my 19th and I’m always a mixture of excited, yet scared. Still. It’s because I have a respect for the distance. Having respect for the distance is a good thing. It means you are mindful to be prepared.

Tamati and I will finish. The founder of the NZ chapter, Peter Loft, drilled it into us that “failure is not an option”. There are too many people who have supported us to get to this point and he quips that non-finishing is only allowed if you need an ambulance, or body bag. He’s not joking. Seriously.

It’s likely to rain on Sunday and so my joyful tears of elation at the finish-line will likely mix with rain. I can’t wait to see the athlete I guide throw his arms up in the air in triumph. And it will be magic seeing all those other inspirational Achilles athletes out on the course.

Thanks Dick for creating so much magic in motion.


Follow Rachel & Tamati on race day:

InspiredHealthNZ Facebook page click HERE

Inspiredhealthandfitness Instagram click HERE



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