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  • Jenny Border

​Couch to 5k: Right to Run

Updated: Mar 27

An asian woman with sunglasses and smiling at the camera. She is wearing a blue shirt that says "Owen's place charity race"

As a person with Arthrogryposis, a visible physical disability that affects my entire body and all aspects of my life, I’ve grown up fully aware that my body is different visually and functionally from a non-disabled body. Through the years, I learned how to adapt to every aspect of my life.

An area that I always struggled to adapt to was exercising independently. In college, I decided to take on this challenge. I didn't care what activity I did; I just wanted to use my pent-up energy and frustration living in an inaccessible world. I joined all the adapted sports clubs only to find they require you to have at least some passive movement in your arms. That's always been the frustration with my disability and the adapted world: it doesn't fit any mold. I loved the idea of using adaptive equipment like hand cycles or playing quad rugby, but everything requires arm function or flexible legs, which I don't have.

I don't fit any non-disabled sports equipment either. Everyone suggested swimming, but sadly it triggered my nerve pain. On my quest to exercise independently, I ran into dead ends everywhere. Medical professionals thought I would make my disability worse, gyms complained I was a liability, well, meaning disabled friends told me my inner ableism was fueling my desires. With each setback, my determination to find a way to exercise and be the strongest version of myself grew. Then I found running.

I love the freedom of running, the feeling of breathing and being mesmerized by each step. I like thinking about how my body is working to propel me forward. I love that I can be distracted by my thoughts and not have any backlash. Most of all I love the feeling of my muscles being used to the max.Shortly after I started running, I decided to challenge myself to complete a 5k at least once because I wanted to push myself and using a standard race measurement meant I could race alongside others even if my pace was slower. To be honest, some of me was sick and tired of being excluded in the disabled and physically able-bodied sports communities. So I decided I wasn't going to give a hoot what anyone said; running made me happy and like I belonged and had a right to be happy.

Early in my training, I injured my leg. I went to sports medicine PTs to rehabilitate back to my pre-injury state, and it was a disaster. They either didn't believe I ran before or said that I needed to accept my disability and that I could no longer run. Then one weekend, I randomly entered a running store and saw an antigravity treadmill with a sign saying, “try me.” People often use these treadmills to help in recovery without reinjuring themselves, and let’s just say I was hooked on it. I constantly trained for years and in addition to recovering from my accident, I was actually physically more mobile than ever.

After 10 years of on/off training, numerous falls, a "broken" knee, 4+ sprained ankles, a gazillion sprained knees (seriously 20+), three wheelchair upgrades, and a ton of grunting, I finished my first 5K.

The best moments of the race were:

1. Crossing the finish line without injury at 1:32:582.

2. The frozen custard I devoured at the finish line.

Completing the 5K was a decade-long journey. I constantly advocated to so many people that my body was capable and worthy. Crossing the finish line was the physical evidence for myself, that I am worthy, valuable, deserve to exist, and have a right to access medical services and equipment purely because I am a living, breathing human being. Yes, my body might not seem “normal” or may even be called “rare,” but I did it.

Jenny Border is a proud disabled adopted Asian woman. Jenny loves learning, tinkering, and working to make the world a little more kind and accessible.


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