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Sunday, 3 May 2015

River Bank Run part of unfinished business for Ms. Wheelchair America

Running, which used to be Samantha Schroth's way to relax, has given way to a wheelchair and a new pursuit to enrich a very-changed life.
Sam Schroth 10-14_0184b.jpg
Samantha Schroth is the reigning Ms. Wheelchair who plans to make the River Bank Run her first wheelchair race.

The 23-year-old from Wisconsin is entered in the Fifth Third River Bank Run on May 9 in what will be her first race in a wheelchair since a spinal cord injury just under two years ago when a tree fell on her.

Her transition from a recreational runner in college to wheelchair racer training for the Mary Free Bed-sponsored 25K is just the newest adventure for Schroth.

Most notable, she is the reigning Ms. Wheelchair America, traveling to some 40 events so far speaking on behalf of more than 54 million Americans living with disabilities. The Greenville, Wisconsin resident is also a graduate of University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, tutors at a middle school and hopes to get into medical school in the next year.

Wheelchair racing picks up where her previous life left off.

"This is new, indeed, but it is a passion of mine dating back to running days," she said.
Schroth used a grant through the Challenged Athletes Foundation to purchase her lime green racing chair last July and has been training in earnest the past three months to prepare for the race.

But the River Bank Run is part of a bigger goal. The race will serve as a precursor to the Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, on June 19. That event holds significance. She had begun to train for it just before she was injured in 2013.
"I had run one half marathon and was looking forward to that a lot," she said of Grandma's Marathon. "Now it's one of those personal things that I was going to run that marathon, and so I'm still going to do that thing."

Quite a transition from using your legs and pumping your arms.

"Now it’s one of those personal things ... I was going to run that marathon, so I’m still going to do that thing."
"Running used to be a real big stress relief for me," said Schroth, who obtained her undergraduate's degree in three years. "Running primarily was a way to get away, relax."
Her life changed on May 25, 2013 when, while standing in the yard at her friend's family summer home in Minnesota, a dead tree fell on top of her, landing on her chest.

It took two people to lift the portion off her chest. She was airlifted to a trauma center in Fargo, North Dakota, where she spent 3½weeks in intensive care. There she learned she had injured her thoracic 7 and 8 vertebrae. She no longer had feeling below mid-chest area.
After she transferred to Craig Hospital in Colorado, where she spent 2½ months in rehab, she first learned about Ms. Wheelchair. She learned it wasn't a traditional beauty contest, but a title based primarily on the ability and interest to educate and serve as an advocate to people with disabilities. She won the Wisconsin crown in March 2014 and then took the national title over 27 contestants in Long Beach, California in August.

As for the wheelchair race, Schroth trains about six days a week, from speed to tempo work, for about 45 minutes to an hour each. Her arms, which she described were once "pretty wimpy," have become strong.

"I did my first 18-mile push on Monday which was really exciting because I never had ever even run 18 miles, so to push 18 miles was a really big deal," she said with a laugh. "I'm a lot more athletic in this than I ever was in my able-body form."

Schroth has studied the Grand Rapids course and is confident – as least in her preparation. Now, she has to learn to trust her equipment.

"I used to just lace up a pair of shoes and run and not worry about what happens for the most part," she said. "Now with a racing chair you have to worry about other things. I just don't want a flat. I know mentally and physically I'm up to the challenge."

Pete Wallner covers sports for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at 

Source: Mlive, 2nd May 2015 

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