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For Columbus residents Collin Booher and Grace Kestler, participating in the inaugural Mill Race Marathon has little to do with sports or competition — but a lot with inclusion and community.
For Kestler, 24, who is in a wheelchair because of muscular dystrophy, the marathon presents another opportunity — after skiing, water skiing and a national championship in power soccer — to show that people with disabilities can get involved, achieve and inspire.
Collin, 15, is a sports fan who also plays power soccer — but often can sit only on the sidelines as opportunities for people in wheelchairs to participate in sports locally are limited. He said the marathon sounded like fun, especially because it will mean a shared activity with his mother, Laurie Booher, an avid runner.
Collin, who attends Columbus North, will complete the half-
marathon with the help of “Collin’s Crew,” a group of eight family members and friends who will help push him when he gets tired.
He is in a wheelchair because of spina bifida, a condition in which the bones of the spine do not form properly around part of the spinal cord. Problems with walking and mobility are associated with spina bifida, according to the Spina Bifida Association’s website.
His mother has run marathons and the Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis multiple times and said she thought the Mill Race Marathon would present a great opportunity for her to share her hobby with Collin.
Collin loves sports, Booher said, but he often cannot participate when his older siblings compete in local sports. She said Collin has told her for a long time that he would love to cross the finish line with her some time.
She thought the marathon was just such a time.
Collin uses a manual wheelchair most of the time, in part to build his upper body strength; and a friend came up with the idea to get together a group of people to help push Collin along the route, Booher said.
But she said the team will encourage Collin to push himself on each of the 13 miles — and propel himself across the finish line.
“I want him to feel a sense of accomplishment,” Booher said.
Collin said he looks forward to crossing the finish line, where some of his friends are expected to welcome him with thunderous applause. But the highlight, he said, will be competing together with his mom.
“It means the whole world to me,” he said.
Kestler has, for many years, enjoyed traveling and active pursuits. For six years, she played power soccer in Indianapolis with the Circle City Rollers, winning a national championship. But she gave up that hobby when she got too busy with work, travel and other activities.
She thought that competing
in the Mill Race Marathon’s 5K race would present a new challenge and allowed her to get involved in a local celebration.
“It’s a pretty big community event, and I wanted to participate in it,” she said.
Beyond that, Kestler said, she wants “to show that individuals with disabilities … can participate in some of these community events.”
Her mother, Elizabeth Kestler, will run beside her, in part because the race will allow mother and daughter to participate in an event together.
On some occasions, Elizabeth Kestler said, participating in local events has been difficult for her daughter because of various obstacles.
“For her, a lot of it is just being able to be part of the event,” Elizabeth Kestler said.
Muscular dystrophy is a group of genetic diseases in which muscle fibers are unusually susceptible to damage and become progressively weaker. Most people who have muscular dystrophy eventually need to use a wheelchair, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website.
Elizabeth Kestler said she hopes her daughter’s participation also inspires other people with disabilities to get involved in active pursuits.
When her daughter was younger, not being able to participate in sports was always a slap in the face, Elizabeth Kestler said. That became especially clear later when she thrived in competitive power soccer. Beyond lessons about team play, competition, hard work, achieving victories and dealing with losses, participation in sports and other activities allows people to feel more of a part of the community, Elizabeth Kestler said.
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