WE HAVE UNFINISHED BUSINESS
On the pavement and the trails. In the pool and out in the open water. On the road and in the gym. It’s something inside us. Something that refuses to take no for an answer. Something that makes us push through every time, no matter what.
Everyone has unfinished business. We’ve teamed up with four incredible athletes who refuse to let anything – including muscle cramps – keep them from reaching their goals. Check out the story of our first Unfinisher, Kaitlyn:
KAITLYN WON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
Somerville, MA resident Kaitlyn’s life changed the day her boyfriend, Matt, was paralyzed in an accident during a basketball game. Inspired by the hard work Matt put into his recovery, she competed in last year’s marathon, but suffered from cramping. She made a pledge to Matt last year that she would race again, but this time, he would race with her.
So on April 9th, Kaitlyn will run 26.2 miles in Boston – pushing Matt in his wheelchair the whole time. Here’s what Kaitlyn & Matt told us about their relationship and their work to complete their unfinished business:
How did you two meet?
Matt: We met on the beach at the Jersey Shore, through mutual friends.
Kaitlyn: I saw him on the beach and just walked right up and said “You know you’re adorable right?” He followed me around like a puppy for the rest of the night.
How would you describe your relationship before and after Matt’s accident?
Kaitlyn: We were never a couple that had to do everything together. We loved to go on trips and explore the world together, but we had our own lives. We would go through our day, and come together at night when it was time to eat dinner and go to bed. He did his thing, and I did mine… After the accident, obviously he became dependent on me / everyone, which I think is his biggest battle. It is something we were not used to. It’s as if we had to grieve our past relationship, because it basically died. We were shoved into this new, scary, unpredictable life.
Matt: As a couple, we were independent. We had our own things that we liked to do. But at night and on the weekends, we spent time together watching movies or going to dinner…Before the accident, I was very organized and detail oriented. I was not much of a risk taker. I wasn’t very outgoing. I was always worried about the little, stupid things. Now, not so much. I think I am pretty much the same person, but I have a different outlook on life. I appreciate things more and I’m more generous… Now, as a couple, we’re the same. But we’ve had to adjust to not ever having alone time. We also have to do more planning for the weekends. Things can’t really be the spur of the moment. We’re definitely closer than we’ve ever been. We’re more appreciative of our time together.
Kaitlyn: After the initial shock of how different life would be and getting used to all the strangers that would be in and out of our apartment to see us at our most vulnerable moments, we started to navigate our relationship to finding “our normal.” We got a handicapped accessible apartment, van, bathroom, bed, the works. We started going out more… to dinner, to the movies, to basketball/baseball games, on vacations. We don’t have this life perfected but we are making the most of it.
Why are you running the marathon?
Kaitlyn: Last year, when I was training for the 2017 marathon, each time I would leave to go run I would tell Matt that next year you’re going to be doing it too. Naively, I thought he maybe would be able to run it, or at least hand-cycle it. And we’re still not at that point where that is possible. But like I said before, that answer just doesn’t cut it for me… It’s more than just a race for us. It’s our way of telling life, ‘go ahead…take your best shot.’ If life is going to punch us where it hurts, this is our counter-punch. If there is something we want to do, we’re going to run the marathon…regardless of qualifications.
What’re your current workout regimens?
Kaitlyn: I grew up playing soccer and basketball so I never really had to work out on my own. But running was always the foundation of both sports, so that is something I have always done. I run outside or on a treadmill. I do barre and some boxing as well…I try to work out 4-5 times a week. Running is always more enjoyable with a buddy.
Matt: I go to Journey Forward, which is a non-profit organization based program dedicated to bettering the lives of those with SCI [Spinal Cord Injury]. It provides an intense, exercise based program working to achieve some of the most basic life functions. I go there 4 days a week for 2-3 hours at a time. I also have an FES bike in my apartment that I am able to work my arms and legs out on at least once a day.
What does unfinished business mean to you?
Kaitlyn: I guess the main thing I’ve realized about living a handicapped life is that the world is definitely trying to accommodate the handicapped, but we still don’t have it quite figured out…In the beginning of this journey, we found ourselves staying home, kind of ‘waiting’ for progress to happen before we ventured back into the world as a couple. If a friend’s house wasn’t accessible, we wouldn’t go. If Matt’s chair was having technical difficulties, we would stay home…I’ve never liked hearing the word ‘no’ and I definitely don’t like feeling that I can’t do something I want to do. And eventually, it got to a point where I was sick of feeling like we were being held back from doing things and living our lives. We wanted to take back control of our lives and be able to do everything we wanted to do or could do before, just in a different way.
Matt: It means having a goal in mind that you want badly and working towards that goal.
Kaitlyn, how did cramping impact your training and marathon last year?
Kaitlyn: I usually have a big issue with cramping after exercise, mostly in my toes. This happened after almost every one of my long training runs. During the marathon, I was terribly afraid of cramping. No matter how many times I stopped to drink and no matter how many bananas I ate, I still cramped in my hamstring. It didn’t stop me, but it definitely slowed me down and crippled me mentally. I was so afraid of further cramping I didn’t want to push it… The beauty of going through a tragic event is that it kind of makes you feel invincible. I’m not afraid about the mental component of it. Because I feel like if I can get through what I’ve gotten through, I can do anything. But I am definitely afraid of not being strong enough. I’m afraid of cramping for sure, because there will be more muscle demand on me.
How do you stay motivated?
Kaitlyn: I try to think of something to look forward to. I think about Matt, sitting in his chair when I know he would kill to be running with me. I think that it can always be worse. No matter what, there is always going to be someone who has it worse. Someone who would kill to have had the opportunities we’ve had. Simply, I tell myself to stop whining. Train harder.
Matt: It’s who we are. The support of people around us. Mainly, the desire to get our normal life back and to prove people wrong.
Check out the rest of the Team #Unfinishers here.