The 19th annual 650-mile Achilles resistance relay ended on July 10 with a group of 4,000 runners racing through Central Park in New York City.
The relay, which began on June 26, was led by the Achilles Liberty Team, a group of sick and / or injured veterans, with legally blind runner Eric Strong winning the starting 44 miles, heading east from Charlotte.
Relay participants – runners, walkers and wheelchairs – began their journey east through North Carolina and Virginia toward Washington, DC, on June 28, the route stretched 128 miles, from Louise, VA to Arlington, VA.
The Achilles Liberty Team was honored at a June 30 event attended by former U.S. President George W. Bush, in a conversation with Cigna Corporation CEO David Cordani in Washington, DC
“Showing courage on the battlefield, they often return home with injuries – both visible and invisible – that amplify the challenges of transitioning to civilian life,” Bush said. “Together we celebrate an elite group of veterans who, with their perseverance and athletic accomplishments, teach us that when we face adversity we can push our boundaries of the possible.”
Among the heroic stories of the Achilles Liberty Team is U.S. Army Captain (retired) Holly Koester, whose military career ended when she suffered a permanent injury while on duty. “When I was first injured, I thought my active life was over,” Koester said. “After the discovery of wheelchair sports, I realized it was about as far from the truth as can be imagined.” Koester, a proud dog lover, became the first person to run a full marathon in all 50 states using a pushrim chair.
Jenny Hwang of Queens, New York was born with retinitis pigmentosa and lost most of her sight in 2002. In 2013, Daredevil discovered Achilles and began a new chapter of long-distance running, completing the 2018 Paris Marathon.
The 650-kilometer relay culminated on July 10 – the 31st anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act – by running the 4-mile Achilles’ Hope through Central Park, hosted by the New York Road Runners. Among the ambassadors of the celebrities were comedian Jon Stewart, former New York Giants returning Tiki Barber and ABC News journalist Deborah Roberts.
“You have inspired not only yourself over the years, but the entire country as we wake up again … for opportunities and hope in all we can achieve,” Stewart said.
Achilles International is a global organization that transforms the lives of people with disabilities through athletic programs and social connectivity. The Relay campaign raised more than $ 109,000; donations can be made here.