Formerly a USA triathlon trainer, she is no stranger to distance running. This time, however, she will be using a handcycle.
In April 2002, Sanden was biking downhill at close to 50 miles per hour when she hit a pothole in the asphalt.
She crushed two vertebrae and was confined to a wheelchair, only partially able to move each leg. She was told she would never walk again.
In a sense, Sanden’s story is not unique. In 2011, there were approximately 1400 cycling accidents in Orange County resulting in injuries, and an average of one death a month in cycling-related accidents. And California leads the nation in cycling deaths, accounting for a little more than 4% of all deaths in the state.
But with the help of a paraplegic friend and strong determination, Sanden did walk again, first with a walker and then trading it out for a cane. She even relearned to swim.
With limited use of her legs, Sanden began to train on a handcycle, which is powered by arm strength with pedals designed to be pumped by hands.
Her quest to compete again hit a snag with the limited allowance of handcycles in marathons, but following the Boston Marathon’s okay of them began in 2008, she was able to race.
After completing the 2010 Boston Marathon, she was invited to China to participate in the Great Wall of China Marathon, and a subsequent marathon in Lima, Peru. Thus began her trek around the world to race.
Not all of her races have allowed her to rely solely on her handcycle. She’s had to use her walker and her cane to aid in rough or steep terrain but has always finished.
As part of her charity, giving back to other paraplegics like her, she and Paul and Denise Fejtek of Newport Beach have begun donating handcycles and racing wheelchairs to paraplegics in other countries.
Sanden herself has also been offering free training sessions to other paraplegic athletes like herself. And she hasn’t given up coaching just because of her injury; she trains non-paraplegic athletes as well.
Now, Sanden is currently engulfed in one of her most difficult globe-trotting obstacles—the rugged terrain and freezing temperatures of Antarctica. Sanden is using a special handcycle—a 43-pound behemoth designed for mud and snow. For the past several weekends she trained at Big Bear, preparing for the challenges she would face, including sleeping in a tent.
Of her mission, she said, “It’s crazy, but it’s an adventure. It’s all in the arms and in the mind. I’m powered by God. People say you only have one life. I have two lives. I got a second chance. I’m not backing down.”
Sanden’s goal to perform in a marathon on 7 continents is about to be completed on February 22nd. We will provide an update at that time.
We’re rooting for you Beth!