In 2007, champion BMX and mountain bike rider Tara Llanes suffered an injury while competing that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Nearly nine years later, she continues to fight for a cure, and for the first time is joining her friend Aaron Baker at the Wings for Life World Run in Santa Clarita, California on May 8. Find out more from Llanes below.
Is this your first year participating in the event? How did you find out about it?
Llanes: Yes, this is my first year participating in Wings for Life World Run. I heard about it a few years ago and wanted to participate but unfortunately the date conflicted with a previous engagement. This year I planned way ahead since I have to fly down to LA, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to take part and to do it with one of my best friends, Aaron Baker.
What does the World Run, and the fact that 100% of the proceeds go to spinal cord research, mean to you?
It means that getting out of our chairs to walk or run this event in the future is much more of a possibility. When I was in the hospital right after my crash I was naïve enough to think that I’d walk out of the hospital after my three-month stay. In hindsight it was probably a good thing, because it gave me such hope. It’s been almost nine years since my injury and every year doctors would tell me that the day when I could walk again was right around the corner. I say that without an ounce of animosity, knowing that doctors do everything they possibly can and spend years of their life trying to understand one of the most complex things on earth: the human body.
Until the World Run came along I had never seen a worldwide event for spinal cord injury that captured such spirit, enthusiasm and humanity in people. This isn’t just another marathon run. Every single person signing up is changing our lives and it touches me so much that I’m tearing up right now. So yeah, it means that people care enough to dream up an event like this, execute that dream, and put 100% of the money raised into finding a cure.
I noticed that your mom is also participating and, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the race is on Mother’s Day. What has her support meant to you?
From the day I had my injury my mom’s support has been constant and unwavering. As anyone that has been through something so physically, mentally and emotionally catastrophic knows, having love and support from your parents and loved ones is crucial to your recovery. Trying to come back from something like a spinal cord injury takes so much out of you every single day, and you need those people to help replenish your energy. She is one of the strongest people I know and for her to want to do this with me is so unbelievably special.
Join Tara and her mother and many more around the world – sign up for Wings for Life World Run now!
Photo: Kezia Nathe