On Sunday, two Canadians will take a huge step on their paths to recovery. After suffering spinal cord injuries, Mike Shaw and Pauly Plewa will run in the second Wings for Life World Run in Niagara Falls, defying the odds.
For the majority of people who suffer a spinal cord injury, walking again – let alone running – is a dream. But for Mike and Pauly, that dream has come true. Maybe the nerves in their spinal cord were severely compacted rather than completely destroyed but they have regained function and mobility, making them two of the very rare lucky ones.
Courtesy of Mike Shaw
Wings for Life, however, wants to find the cure for spinal cord injury for everyone, not just the lucky few.
Mike Shaw dislocated his neck at C4/C5 on December 16, 2013, while skiing in Colorado. It changed his life but, on Sunday, his original personal goal of 8km marks another step along his road to recovery.
“I’m beginning to wonder if an 8km goal was a bit ambitious, but I’ve never been one to aim low before, so I’ll stick with that goal. I’m going to try my hardest to make 8km before the Catcher Car gets me but hopefully I can surprise myself and go even farther!”
Mike has been working hard to prepare for race day.
“I can’t tell you how true the Wings for Life World Run slogan rings true for me. I really am running for those who can’t.
"When I’m running, whether it’s on a treadmill or outside, I feel so unbelievably grateful to be able to run because there are so many people who would love to be in my shoes. Throughout my recovery from spinal cord injury (SCI), I gave it my all in physical therapy and rehab because I knew I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to get better.
“There are so many people with SCIs similar to mine that don’t get that opportunity. I don’t know what made mine different, what made my injury recoverable, but what I do know is that I am lucky, and if I don't give it my all, it would be an absolute shame. There are other people out there with SCIs who have just as much drive, just as much motivation, and just as much gratitude as I have who would give it their all if they were given the opportunity. It motivates me to push even harder.”
After Pauly Plewa’s accident, he was given a 1 in 50 chance of recovering any sensation or function from his chest down. But Pauly is preparing to race on Sunday May 3 with his team Run Again 771.
Courtesy of Pauly Plewa
“During the last few months, I've been working on improving my run and my stride. Overall, things have been getting better, and I feel more confident with my abilities. My running endurance isn't anywhere what it used to be, and it's even harder to build up that endurance after my SCI. I live out in the country, and we have a really long driveway; lately I've been getting better with running up to get the mail at the end of the drive and coming back, and I couldn't do that a month ago. It's small victories like this that make me want to keep pushing.
“My body has completely changed after my SCI. Training for a 10km run was challenging before, but it wasn't nearly as challenging as it is now. Not only do I suffer from spastic movements and poor muscle coordination, but I also don't have the muscle endurance that I used to have. Now when I train, I’m training to be able to run 500m, catch my breath in a minute, then keep running again.
“To complement my running and improve my endurance, I've been doing a lot of cycling. I've always enjoyed cycling and am really glad that it's something that I can still do. I put on my headphones and ride for an hour. In winter, I use an indoor trainer at home, but now that the weather is getting nicer again, I'm loving riding outdoors. Living in the country has its advantages: open country roads with beautiful scenery.
“To prep for the race, I've been working on my gait, my running technique, so to say, and complementing it with lots of cycling and stretching. I don't want to overwork my legs before the run – I want to feel confident on race day!
“Before my injury, my motto was always ‘No Pain No Gain’, but post injury, I see that I can't keep pushing and overtraining my body like I used to. Now, when I train too much, it takes my body a week to recover and be able to start exercising again. I walk a fine line between making strides forward and remaining rested. The day before the run, I plan to get some acupuncture done to allow my body to be fully relaxed and ready to give it 110% on May 3!
Step up for Pauly and donate to Wings for Life in his name.