Wendy Garrett will complete her sixth Abbott World Marathon Majors race on Sunday when she crosses the finish line in Tokyo. It has been a journey that she couldn’t have imagined possible following an accident that left her barely able to walk.
“I was active my whole life,” says the runner from Oregon in the United States. “I was a gymnast for 17 years, and then I became a runner, gymnastics coach, and fitness instructor. While living abroad in Bermuda as a gymnastics coach I was involved in an accident that immediately left me with the loss of use of my left leg.
“The following three years I went from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist, looking for answers. For three years I lived in a big clunky walking boot. Doctors couldn't explain my injuries and I was unable to walk without the use of my boot, work, or do the things I loved. I was dubbed a "medical mystery". My whole life was on hold for three years. I started to think it was going to be my new normal.
"Then one day I said: ‘Just one more doctor, and that's it.’” That last doctor – the 25th specialist Wendy had gone to for help – had the answer.
“Lucky doctor No.25 diagnosed me with an incomplete spinal cord injury as well as a cervical spinal syrinx. Still without the use of my lower left leg (I had no movement in my toes, ankle or calf) this same doctor sent me to be fitted for an orthotic that changed my life. I went for a run that very same day I got my new brace and never looked back. It was a miracle.”
One year on from the exact date of that return to running, Wendy’s “wildest dream” came true when she crossed the Boston Marathon finish line for the first time.
“It's a miracle that I can run. I never thought I'd walk again. And now I'm just one marathon away from completing the six Abbott World Marathon Majors. I'm the luckiest woman in the world.”
When she crosses that finish line in Tokyo on Sunday, it will mark the climax of a mission Wendy never dreamed would be accomplished, but far from the end of her ambitions.
“I want to run a marathon on all of the seven continents and Climb Mount Rainer! And give Paralympic triathlon a try!”
And she hopes her story can serve as a source of inspiration for others.
“[I want] to show others that in spite of the tough things life can throw at us we are capable of hard things. I love having the goal of a marathon in sight. Goals give us hope. Life is tough, but we are tougher.”