People of PN: Perseverance

Fifty marathons. Fifty states. Fifty weeks

People of PN: 2013 A Look Back


Perseverance. It’s getting up when you fall, it’s trudging on through exhaustion, it’s pushing with a flat tire, it’s one of Paul Erway’s standout traits. When a car accident led to a spinal-cord injury (SCI), Erway persevered, built up his upper body strength and began wheelchair racing. When a second accident put him out of work for five months, Erway persevered and went back to racing as soon as he could.

“What feels great is when I’m using a wheelchair and I can finish the race and I can look back and see all the people I beat, and they don’t use wheelchairs. I have to use a wheelchair, but I’m going to push as fast as I can,” Erway says. “I’m overcoming my wheelchair.”

It’s this perseverance that has gotten the 55-year-old from Shelbyville, Ky., and Team Reeve teammates Grant Berthiaume and Aaron Roux just five marathons away from the end of their 50 Ability Marathons challenge to finish 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 weeks. The core goal of the challenge was to speak at local rehab centers, and earn 1 million dollars in donations for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

“Overall it’s been so exciting because just meeting new people and new locations and the therapists at some of these facilities and getting a chance to meet some of the patients,” Erway says. “But the races themselves are great, like New York City, the biggest marathon ever, was 50,000 people and Chicago was great and Detroit. You know and then we have the bad parts about it, like the Boston Marathon, that’s kind of hard.”

Although they are only five races away from the end, they aren’t as close to their goal of 1 million dollars. With about five weeks left, Team Reeve had received just $5,000 in donations.

“We’re not getting any of the sponsorship money to cover our costs nor are we getting any donation money for Christopher and Dana Reeve like we thought,” Erway says. “But Christopher and Dana Reeve really appreciate it because they do see that we are really keeping their name alive out there, that we’re getting a lot of coverage for them and a lot of exposure.”

Despite this, Team Reeve plans to persevere. “We always have to set goals, we have to make the goal bigger and better and challenging, and so we said, ‘What’s next?’” Erway says.

Their next step is setting new goals that will get them closer to raising $1 million for Christopher and Dana Reeve. Erway says they have discussed writing a book about their 50 Marathons, the good and the bad, and donating a portion of the profits. There’s also been talk of triathlons, international marathons and for Erway, the possibility of doing 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.

“Christopher and Dana Reeve have helped so many people so that’s why we need to keep working on ways to raise money for them,” Erway says. “So if it’s through the book or maybe coming up with the next challenge, we are going to keep pushing, keep pushing on.”

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