PLATTSBURGH - Jillian Duda has never considered herself a quitter.
Even when a spinal chord stroke impaired her walking ability nine years ago, she knew it wouldn't prevent her from continuing to live a productive life and enjoy the activities she loved. So, when the idea to compete in a marathon came about, Duda took on the challenge.
The 30-year-old city resident first competed in the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vt., last year at age 29.
"My goal was just to finish," Duda said.
But, she did much better than that. In fact, she placed first among women in the handcycle division, which involved Duda using a handcycling bike to complete the 26.2-mile course. The bike was loaned to her by the Northeast Disabled Athletic Association, a Burlington-based nonprofit organization that works "to provide recreational and competitive athletic opportunities for people with physical disabilities."
When she crossed the finish line with a time of 2:12:38, it was enough to qualify her to compete in the oldest annual city marathon in the world - the Boston Marathon. This time, however, she was doing so on her own handcycle, that was purchased through donations by her supporters in the community. That support is something Duda credits for her taking 15th in the overall handcycling division for the April 18 event.
"I could not have been where I was in the Boston Marathon that day without the support of the people in the community and the businesses," Duda said. "I just would not have been there."
The training that led up to her participation in the Boston Marathon was grueling. The months leading up to the event consisted of spending every other day training on a stationary handcycle for at least two hours at a time.
"I only had a couple days of good weather outdoors to train," said Duda. "So, I had to train mainly indoors, which is different because outdoors you have the road conditions, like potholes, the different grades of the pavement. And, every road is obviously different."