Amputee races 5K |

Amputee races 5K

Mary Thompson

Although new to the sport of running, 43-year-old Mary Ebright moves with the fluidity and rhythm of a seasoned athlete – her arms pumping in time with her legs as she whizzes past the competition. It is not until you let your eye follow the thumping of her feet that you notice that one of them is made with a high-tech carbon fiber.

Ebright’s right leg was amputated at the knee when she was diagnosed with bone cancer when she was 13 years old. The loss of limb, however, has not hampered her active lifestyle.

Already an avid skier, Ebright, a South Shore resident, was introduced to the idea of running in the 5-kilometer race in the Lake Tahoe Marathon by her personal trainer Cindy Farnes.

Ebright said Farnes had her working on striding technique on a treadmill and building strength through weight training and swimming laps in the pool.

“When I’d run she would ask me how the leg was doing and I said, ‘Honey, it ain’t the leg that’s bothering me now.’ It takes a lot of cardiovascular fitness too,” Ebright said. “I’ve never run before in my life, my normal (prosthesis) isn’t designed to run on.”

So, she went out and got one that was.

Three weeks before Saturday’s race, Ebright was fit for a light-weight, newly designed prosthesis, called a Flex-Foot. With its swiftly curved heel and toe pad covered with a rubber sole, the new prosthesis allowed Ebright to smooth out her stride – a motion she hasn’t done since the operation 30 years ago.

“There’s a sense of freedom that comes from the fluid movement of running,” she said. “I’ve got the dynamics of this incredible leg but I’m still getting it dialed in and learning how to run on it right now.”

Part of getting “dialed in” requires making sure the fit of the prosthesis is accurate.

“I had run on it about five times and then I had a little setback,” she said. “The foot wasn’t fitting properly and I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to do (the race).”

But she did.

She got the foot refitted, and completed the 5 kilometers in less than an hour, a goal that she had set for herself.

“I felt really fluid even though I was thrown for a loop because the course was mostly on dirt and I didn’t know that,” she said. “The new foot is really designed to be used on pavement and we were running along the shoreline and on a dirt path but I finished and that’s all that counts – the time didn’t even matter.”

With one race under her belt, Ebright said she’ll be back for more.

“I’m just getting a taste of it,” she said. “If I can run I can do anything. I now feel invincible.”

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