Sexual assault survivor completes NYC Marathon in crutches

Running a marathon is hard enough. Doing so in crutches is herculean.

But that’s what Hannah Gavios did on Sunday, finishing the course in 11 hours as part of Team Reeve to raise money for spinal cord injury research.

Two years ago, Gavios fractured her spine after she fell off a cliff in Thailand. She was running away from a local who was attacking her when she fell more than 150 feet and broke her back.

Gavios, a Queens native, told the NY Post that she was participating in the race because,  “I’m going to be a functioning human – I don’t want to feel like I’m left behind.”

She wasn’t left behind, crossing the finish line to hundreds of people cheering for her.

“I didn’t expect this many people,” Gavios said. “It just shows my city has my back. My city is awesome, waiting for me here — I don’t know how long everyone waited for me — it just means so much to me that you guys stayed. Thank you.”

Training

Like other marathoners, Gavios began training gradually. And like them, she faced hurdles and plateaus in her training. In an interview with Bustle, Gavios said that she looked to other disabled athletes, like a skateboarder born without legs, whenever she needed inspiration.

“Just seeing how different people work with their challenges shows me how much I have to work with as well and how I could use that to my fullest potential,” Gavios said. 

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New York City Marathon 2018
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New York City Marathon 2018
Athletics - New York City Marathon - New York City, New York, U.S. - November 4, 2018. General view as runners cross the Verrazzano Bridge during the marathon. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Mary Keitany of Kenya crosses the finish line first in the women's division of the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Lelisa Desisa, of Ethiopia, crosses the finish line first in the men's division of the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Athletics - New York City Marathon - New York City, New York, U.S. - November 4, 2018. General view of athletes in the Professional Wheelchair Divison crossing the Verrazzano Bridge during the New York City Marathon. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Runners move along First Avenue during the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Runners race during the 2018 New York City Marathon in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 4, 2018. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Runners, background, cross under the Queensboro Bridge as police stand guard during the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Athletics - New York City Marathon - New York City, New York, U.S. - November 4, 2018 General view as athletes in the Professional Men's race start the marathon ahead of the general classification REUTERS/Darren Ornitz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia crosses the finish line first in the men's division of the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Lelisa Desisa, of Ethiopia, left, and Shura Kitata, of Ethiopia, run though the Brooklyn borough of New York as they compete during the New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
A participant drives his handcycle as he crosses the Queensboro Bridge during the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Runners leave the start line area as they compete during the New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Mens elite runners cross the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge during the New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Runners cross the Queensboro bridge during the New York City Marathon in New York, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Athletics - New York City Marathon - New York City, New York, U.S. - November 4, 2018 General view of the New York skyline as competitors run past during the marathon REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Athletics - New York City Marathon - New York City, New York, U.S. - November 4, 2018 Runners cross the Verrazzano Bridge as a helicopter hovers nearby during the marathon REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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“It’s a lot of mental power and I have to constantly challenge myself,” she said. “I try to maximize it as much as possible. I’ll tell myself, let me just do 10 more blocks and then when I get to that point, then I’ll decide I want to do 10 more, and then 10 more. A lot of it is doing little steps at a time rather than thinking big picture.”

Future goals

As impressive as her feat was, Gavios isn’t done. This year, the goal was to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries.

She has a longterm goal in mind.

“When I show myself I can crutch 18 miles,” Gavios says, “that gives me a boost of confidence to know that I have something to be proud of. My goal is to ultimately run again.”

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