Above: Second Annual Achilles Mongolia Hope & Possibility®
Achilles Heel
October 2016
It was thirty-four years ago this month that I sent 1,100 letters to members of the New York Road Runners Club announcing an eight-week class to introduce people with disabilities to running. The letters were addressed to medical doctors and others in the healthcare profession. Knowing nothing about disability, the focus was on amputees and people who used wheelchairs. These were the only groups I imagined who might run with a disability. The game plan was to work out on Wednesday evenings. Back then, it was too dangerous to enter Central Park. So, we would go to Fifth Avenue and 90th Street and run to 96th Street and back. Doing this twice was just over one mile. There was no thought of the future. Somehow, this evolved into a twice-a-week program, which included Saturday mornings. The eight weeks passed quickly. What was next? Change the focus from a program to a club. The big thing in running was clubs with Greek names. Hence, the name Achilles! Achilles was a Greek hero with a disability. We continued and set a goal - a five-mile race in January in Central Park. There were seven of us - four using wheelchairs; two with crutches and me on an artificial leg. We were quite a sight! We finished and without realizing it, made history. Whoever heard of a club for disabled runners? Even more importantly, whoever heard of a club for disabled long-distance runners focusing on mainstream events? We continued to work out and grow. By the fall of 1983, six of us completed the NYC Marathon. Never in the history of running had so many people with disabilities completed such a distance. We had dreamed the impossible dream - we had achieved the impossible.

Our numbers grew. By 1985, there were 25 of us running the New York City Marathon. By 1987, we began a program for children with disabilities in the New York City school system. Children with disabilities were accompanied to Central Park to run a quarter mile. This evolved into our Achilles Kids program. We now have 11,000 children in 350 schools throughout 14 States. These kids with various disabilities are very active and have goals. One goal is to run a total of 26.2 miles during the school year - a "Virtual Marathon." This past year 7,200 Achilles Kids completed the "Virtual Marathon."

In 2003, we began the Hope & Possibility® race. The concept is to have an event for people with disabilities alongside able-bodied runners and walkers...it is the concept of mainstreaming. The race was named after a book by Trisha Meili, our first board chair: "I Am The Central Park Jogger, a Story of Hope and Possibility". It was a great success and built from a few hundred to over 7,000 runners in 2016. Hope & Possibility has now expanded nationally and internationally including Germany, Peru, Brazil, Russia and Mongolia. Last month, 3,800 runners from Mongolia competed in Hope & Possibility in Ulaanbaatar.

In 2004, we began making trips to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for one-on-one recruiting. Mary Bryant McCourt and I approached wounded veterans who had recently returned from Iraq and asked if they would run the NYC Marathon with us. They laughed and thought we were making a terrible joke. These wounded veterans became the first members of the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans. To date, we have served over 1,000 wounded and injured veterans through our Freedom Team program. This inspired us to begin the Freedom Team Marathon Tour - sixteen marathons throughout the world for this fantastic group. Many started with handcycles and some ran on artificial legs. In September 2016, five competed in the Rio Paralympics!

A story I like to tell is about watching the NYC marathon several years ago. At mile 23.5 I heard a mother and son's exchange: seeing a runner in a wheelchair, another who is blind holding a tether, someone on crutches and an athlete on an artificial leg, the mother turned to her son and said: "Gee, this must be a dangerous sport".

We have come a long way. I am so proud of you all!


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On September 10th, 2016 Achilles Mongolia celebrated their second Hope & Possibility® run in Ulaanbaatar (UB) which included a Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K, 5K and 3K races. Kudos to Achilles Mongolia for their efforts in organizing the only Full Marathon and Half Marathon of the International Series of Hope and Possibility races. This year a total of 3,800 Athletes registered for the event doubling participation from last year and helping to make this year's event profitable. 

Hundreds of happy winners from different age divisions shared a podium with Achilles Mongolia Chairman Mr. Tumurkhuu and CEO Ms. Saranchuluun. The eldest winner in age category 80+ was Mr. Shagdar, the 91-year-old father of Achilles' own Gerle Shagdar, Director of Achilles International Chapters. The UB Hope and Possibility was the largest single day charity event held in Mongolia this year and included members of Parliament, celebrities, corporate sponsors and hundreds of volunteers all helping to make the day a great success. We are grateful to the support of all the volunteers who were divided into teams and whose specific duties were designated and identified by different color t-shirts. 

The UB City Park, adorned with a multitude of colorful Achilles banners, was full of celebration, evidencing Achilles Mongolia's two years of achievement. Achilles Mongolia has helped reflect the positive changes the country is making in lives of the disabled population and acknowledging the great possibilities still ahead. The race was broadcast live on Mongolian TV helping all Mongolians witness the event and demonstrate where there is Hope there is Possibility. We share the Chapter's vision that in the next few years UB Hope and Possibility will rise amongst the ranks of Marathons held in Central Asia to become an international destination for foreign Athletes of all abilities. Congratulations and Go Achilles Mongolia!

This past Labor Day, we were thrilled to welcome four amazing participants to Anaheim California for the Cigna Disney Land 5k. Dr. Ivan Lee, Dr. David Brewster, Debbie Muller, and Dawn Burk Scherzo all had wonderful wellness journeys and completed the 5k with beaming smiles! Joining them on the course were three incredible kids from our San Diego Achilles Kids school chapter. And since no trip would be complete without Julian Kane, his family graciously extended their west coast travels so that he could join our crew. Master Sergeant Cedric King had a featured speaking role at the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo and then conquered the 10k. Special thanks to our incredible race weekend guides. These Cigna employees give generously of their time and sacrifice running their own race to ensure that our athletes complete their goals. So big thanks to: Michael Lo Presti, Jeff Amell, Angelica Greene, Karen Franz, Lisa Bacus, Brian Evanko, Jaclyn Sphon, Stephen Cassell, Beth Henry, Carol Hickman, and Michelle Gonzalez. Thanks also to blogger Brandi Gilbert for running and sharing her story. Big cheers to the ever-unflappable Kate Hamer for her hard work and dedication in planning this thrilling west coast weekend!

Achilles Kids had a terrific start to fall! We are looking forward to races including the Terry Fox 5k and the Dash to the Finish. On September 18th we hosted an Olympic Field Day with the I Am More Foundation to introduce our weekend running program to children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities in conjunction with NY Presbyterian Hospital. Thanks to Dr. Isaac Syrop and I Am More's Christa Ursini for their help in organizing the event. Asim Baig spoke movingly at the event about the training that went into his Iron Man finish and his commitment to a life without barriers - thank you Asim! Big thanks to all of the volunteers who helped make it a special and meaningful day for all involved! Biggest thanks to the adorable kids who took part. Their enthusiasm made us all glow with excitement! 

We have some incredible members and volunteers doing amazing work. Check out Sam Rossiello's page on Crowdrise. Sam has raised over $6,000 and will be joining Achilles for the Dash to the Finish 5k on November 5th. This is especially amazing when you consider that Sam lost both his legs just this past February! 

Head over to CrowdRise to learn more about Sam's amazing story!

While on Crowdrise, click on over to Cory Nolan's page. Cory is more than half way to his goal of raising $10,000 for our Freedom Team. Thanks Cory! 

Suzanne Lorio

Suzanne Lorio became part of Achilles in the early '90s and has been very active ever since, particularly over the past two years. Many thanks for everything you do for us, Suzanne! 

"I would love people to know that anyone can do this. I am not a great runner. I also had no experience working with people with disabilities. But if you have an ability to listen, an interest in bettering yourself and gaining a sense of gratitude while helping others - and want to enjoy life for an hour each week - you should try it! .... As a volunteer you receive a lot more than you give!" - Suzanne Lorio
To read more about Suzanne, please click here.

To nominate someone as Volunteer of the Month, please email Fiona.


October is a busy month for Achilles Connecticut! Team Achilles CT is celebrating the upcoming Hartford Marathon (and the success of their first Hope & Possibility® race in August!) at their Pasta Dinner and Pep Rally on October 5th! Then, on October 8th, fifty-two athletes and guides will participate in the Eversource Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K (including NYC Chapter members Romel Palis, Carlos Guzman, and Ruben Tavarez.) Achilles CT is an Official Charity Partner for the third year in a row for this event, raising funds and awareness for athletes with disabilities in mainstream athletic events. Achilles CT volunteer (and retired physician) Gary Griffin was named to the Aiello Inspiration Team for the time he devotes to Achilles both on and off the road. Congratulations Gary! In addition, six chapter athletes and their CT guides are training hard to prepare for the TCS New York City Marathon on November 6th.

This past summer, Luanne Burke (Achilles Colorado) became the first blind runner to complete the grueling Pikes Peak Ascent, a 13.1 mile trail race that climbs nearly 8,000 ft. The very next day, Jessica Beecham (Achilles Pikes Peak) became the first known blind runner to complete the Pikes Peak Marathon, running Barr Trail to the summit of the 14,115 ft Pikes Peak and then returning back down to Manitou Springs. Well done Luanne and Jessica. Amazing!

On September 11th, 2016 members of Achilles Ecuador were part of the Quito Ultimas Noticias 15K race. Six Team Ecuador athletes and their volunteers raced with 18,000 participants as part of Edition #56 and won in their divisions. Well done, Team Ecuador!

Achilles Germany chapter was joined by Achilles US members David Greenstein and Neil Mellen for the Berlin Marathon on September 25th. This is one of the most handcycle-friendly marathons in the world. Special thanks to Mahlon Jenkins and Robin Knopf for their help. It was a great event!

Achilles Madison Wisconsin celebrated its 11-year anniversary with another fun, summer picnic. They enjoyed some good ol' Kentucky Fried Chicken with all the yummy fixin's: taters, gravy, biscuits, cole slaw and brownies/cookies for dessert! Picture perfect weather and a nice walk afterwards to burn off those brownies made it wonderful. Congratulations Achilles Wisconsin!

October 5th: Achilles CT pre-Hartford Marathon Team Pasta Dinner and Pep Rally

October 14th-16th: Detroit Free Press Marathon

October 15th: Terry Fox Run NYC

October 30th: Marine Corps Marathon

Above: 2016 Lifetime Fitness Chicago Half: L-R: Mary Bryant McCourt, Ashley Robin, 
Tim Paul, Meredith Rosenbloom, Patrick O'Hara, and Marta Jurczak Singer



Photo credits: many of our photos are courtesy of the great, talented, always helpful and very dedicated, Larry Sillen. Thank you, Larry!