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Runner Paralyzed in Freak Accident Will Complete Half-Marathon

'Anna’s body doesn’t define her—her mind does'
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2018 4:11 PM CDT
Stock photo.   (Getty/stevenallan)

(Newser) – One San Diego physician knows more about rehabilitation and recovery than any medical course could have taught her, as People reports. Anna Hackenberg was walking along the beach at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego with two friends one day last April. A week later, the 31-year-old urgent care doctor woke up in intensive care at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, paralyzed from the chest down. She would later find out from her friends that she had been hit by a falling boulder, a freak accident on an otherwise calm day. The avid runner spent the better part of the next year re-learning how to perform everyday tasks and manage a wheelchair. But it took her just weeks to decide she would complete the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon in San Diego as a handcyclist.

The Challenged Athletes Foundation says Anna fell in love with handcycling at one of its clinics just months after her accident. It gave her a handcycle soon after that; in a December Facebook post, she is pictured using it—and thanking the foundation for allowing her to "feel the ocean breeze in my hair again." After months of training, she will compete in the half-marathon as a Toyota-sponsored athlete on Sunday. She will have more than 30 friends there cheering her on, and her strongest emotion is gratitude for what she has learned and the support she’s received. “Nobody ever let me feel that there was anything to be sad about,” she tells People. “For that, I’m truly grateful.” Her sister notes that Anna "could have let her injury define her." Instead, she says, “Anna’s body doesn’t define her—her mind does. She is limitless.” (A paralyzed groom walked down the aisle at his wedding.)

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