I am telling everyone because someone asked me a question on Facebook messenger. If you didn’t know, here is the skinny. I have run 13 marathons, 85 half marathons, 14 triathlons and handcycle about 10 marathons and 3 half marathons after sustaining injury to C6-C8 and L5-S1. Running has changed my life, not just by fitness itself or community aspect. It has opened doors to other activities. I was always worried about what would I do if I couldn’t run because in the Army we ran for physical fitness. Once I learned to walk again I always focused on ways to make it to the finishline that I couldn’t see my rainBow.
I have always been fascinated by archery because I think it is amazing. I shot a recurve at Girl Scout camp in the 80’s, and loved it. I don’t quite remember why I never shot outside of camp due to my TBI and/or natural aging.
Nonethless life went on, and I was paralyzed in 1999. I picked up a bow in 2011 with Events and Adventures and had a grand time. I didn’t socialize much; I was more focussed on the target. At that time it hurt to hold a recurve bow in my right arm, but that was all that I knew. I embraced the suck and kept trying I wouldn’t switch to my left hand, my dominant hand, because to release the string with my right hand would be difficult. My fingers on my right hand curl and most of the time close to a fist. My index and thumb stay extended although they can bend. Due to these challenges I stopped that day and never looked back. I was so busy fighting my disability trying to fit in to be an able body that I never considered adaptations.
In 2013 I was dating and I wanted to do something cool for date night. Going out for dinner and movie was just boring to me; I wanted excitement. I purchased a Groupon for the archery range I had been to previously. Again a recurve was all I knew, because I hadn’t planned to hunt. You can hunt with any bow, duh. I didn’t know anything about a compound bow it might as well had been a crossbow in my eyes. We had a great night shooting paper targets. My arm hurt, my bow hand arm was bruised and instead of investing in a guard I decided archery was not for me.
Fast forward to 2019, I attended the National Veteran Wheelchair Games in Kentucky. I signed up for air guns cause I figured that would be really cool. I hung out in the range area because my teammates would be competing in Archery. I was amazed to see people of all levels of spinal cord injury competing in their classes. I saw people using mouth tabs and shoulder slings. While I saw them do the impossible it never occurred to me that I too could do the impossible.
A part of me was thinking this way because was my love of travel. I didn’t even consider that you could travel for Archery to competitions. All I could see was my enjoyment completing marathons and triathlons with my friends besides, I had a journey to complete I had to run a half marathon in every state.
Tormented daily because my running slowly turned to walking which slowly turned to rolling. I was still trying to keep hope alive. This past December, yes 2019. My teammate Steve sent me a text and told me of a free event for PVA veterans at an archery range/shop in Spring, Texas. I decided to take off from work and try something new. I spent my whole day on the range with amazing veterans, volunteers and a few recreational therapists from the VA hospital that brought inpatients for an outing. It was an amazing experience. That day we tried a recurve again, but this time Kay, a wonderful instructor, handed me a compound bow. The feel was amazing, it was challenging, yet amazing.The same could happen for a recurve with the right adaptations, but I am not ready to try it.
I met a teenager who, got permission to miss school so that she could volunteer to help disabled veterans. She was my archery angel and her family has been a God send. Interestingly enough her mother owns an archery range/shop closer to my home and I was invited to shoot. After stopping by 3 other archery shops to shoot loaner bows I stopped by and shot.
That day I was invited to their Christmas potluck where I brought 3 people to introduce them to the sport.
This summer I had planned to bring a group of paras to shop, but due to the pandemic it will wait until 2021. That night I bought my bow, I fired it a few more times before running off to complete the Disney Marathon weekend activities and cruise in January. Upon my return I was bombarded with my work and race schedule my bow sat in the case. I shot once in February with Steve and but my bow back in the case. Everyday I looked at the bow and the day I decided to hit the range everything shut down in March.
A few weeks ago, Endeavor Games went virtual and archery was a challenge. I ordered from a target holder for juniors from Amazon and went to Academy and bought a target. Two days later Steve gave me his old target. I set up a safe station to compete in the event. I didn’t have hexes that fit, to adjust the sights on my bow. I had to compensate thoughout the event. It wasn’t my best, but it was my best at that time. I was determined to complete the event. My archer’s hex tool came in the day after the results were due. I didn’t care, nor did I care I had indoor arrows shooting outside.
I just wanted to “loose an arrow”. The serenity I felt reminded me that no mater how much I enjoy the freedom of handcycling or the pain of running. I enjoyed the freedom of holding a bow and releasing my pain, anguish, fear or negative thought with every arrow that traveled down range. Archery therapeutic with less wear and tear than many other sports. It has improved my range of motion, flexibility and strength on my injured side. It has calmed my mind, it is like a form of meditation. As it stands I love my compound bow.
I wished that when I was first injured I knew about the adaptations for athletes in this sport. Who knows, I may have spent less days thinking of doom and gloom and wanting to end my life. I can’t change the past. It is just like in archery, once an arrow leaves your bow you can’t do anything about it. I can focus on the next arrow, like I focus on my next goal or my future. I can enjoy the peace and the calm archery brings to me and my life. I don’t have to be the fastest, the most fit, have vision, all of my limbs or have core to loose an arrow. This sport is truly for anyone and everyone, I wished I would have known about the different adaptations sooner. You too can enjoy archery, yes try something new. I encourage you to try it and you may find that you like it.