Imagine the challenge of running the New York Marathon this Sunday. Now imagine doing it without feet, or without eyesight, or without being able to stand up at all.
Pierry Ramirez was 18 when as a soldier in Colombia his vehicle hit an IED. The car exploded, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.
“My first thought was my family, was my parents,” Ramirez told Metro. “When I saw them crying I thought to myself you have to do something, because they have to smile again and they have to be proud of you.
“One year after my accident I decided to continue with my life, but I always, always did it through sports,” he said. So he participated in sports in his wheelchair—basketball, tennis, powerlifting.
But he also exercised his mind. He went to college, earned his masters degree in interdisciplinary research, and then trained to become a speech therapist.
In 2009, he joined Achilles International to start the Colombia team. Achillies is an organization that provides money, motivation and the means of getting disabled athletes into serious competitions. Achilles also provides guides that accompany the blind runners—60 of them in this year's marathon—such as for Anthony Butler, who lost his sight in 2008 when he was caught in gunfire in the Bronx.
Ramirez wanted to use his strength to not just power his own competition, but that of others. “They said to me, please set up a chapter, please do activities, please train, please be a leader.”
He is a mentor to 50 Colombians on the Achilles International Team, many of whom are also landmine victims, and range in age from 17 to 60.
Ramirez, now 40, is back in the city to run his fifth New York City Marathon, with three others from his Colombian team. Last year he did it with his everyday wheelchair and finished the marathon in 5 hours and 30 minutes, a remarkably good time considering the average marathon time for men is 4 hours and 13 minutes.
This time, he will use a handcycle, a three-wheeled vehicle powered by hand in which the rider he is almost fully reclined.
“I am still a young man,” Ramirez said. “I think that my life has been successful. My wish is that my parents be proud of me."