A Race to the Starting Line
Written by: Danica King
“I saw on Facebook that a Sportable athlete completed the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K in a wheelchair. I thought, ‘I can do that,’ and attempted to train at a track in my everyday wheelchair. I struggled and took 23:22 to make one lap. I called Sportable.
I was told I should try a Sportable sports or racing wheelchair and then I applied for a grant to get one custom-made for me. I received my new racing wheelchair I had been awarded from the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) Grant and signed up for Sportable’s Road Racing program.
I showed up at my first training session with my wheelchair gloves, water bottle, and my helmet. My only goal was to complete my first lap in less than 23:22.
Lap one took 8:53 and I felt great. That day I did three laps.
Each week, Sportable staff and volunteers would take my everyday wheelchair and my racing wheelchair out of my SUV and return both items after training. I had someone to assist me by pushing me to and from my vehicle to conserve energy and allow me to do more laps on the track. I listened to music as I pushed lap after lap. During the week, I cross-trained with Sportable’s cycling and rock climbing programs. I was also training at home on my recumbent exercise bike and hand cycle.
I had worked up to 12 laps/3 miles. But in the middle of the training program, I hit a wall. I was down to seven laps. The next week, one of the coaches gave me a deadline to defer the race. I knew I wasn’t doing that.
I kept pushing and I made it to race day. At our team’s meeting place, I put stickers on my racing wheelchair. I was equipped with my orange Sportable shirt and bib number and I was ushered to the starting line. There were so many people. The weather was perfect and my guide runner stashed my water bottle in his bag.
When a young girl sang the Star-Spangled Banner, I got very emotional. Wheelchair racers got a three-minute head start, and we were off.
On the course, I saw a bright green sign that read ‘Way To Go Danica AKA Superwoman,’ and I cried. There were cheers and other racers giving me encouragement the entire time.
At the top of mile four, a second volunteer joined us and they attached my gait belt to the back of my racing wheelchair for the big hill leading down to the finish. I heard my name announced as I crossed the finish line and received my medal, and I cried again.
After meeting back up with the rest of the Sportable training team, I transferred to my everyday wheelchair and then it was time for post-race snacks. After all, my favorite sign on the course read ‘This is a lot of work for a free banana,’ and I had earned mine!
I have already signed up for Sportable’s next Road Racing program with my eye on the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K. I wrote a book titled ‘Figure It Out’, and that’s exactly what I did.”