Pushing Your Limits: Running a Marathon with No Legs
About the Author: Sara is a fearless woman and amputee. She struggled with her disability and decided to join a social media platform and recognized the power in representation for disabilities. Since then she has shared her journey through facing her obstacles and achieving her goals on her Instagram (@nolegs_noworries), in order to inspire others to challenge themselves.
My name is Sara and I am a bilateral through knee amputee. A very rare congenital limb difference, called tibial hemimelia, led to me becoming an amputee at a young age. I have been a full-time prosthesis user for over 16 years. Being a child amputee didn’t phase me - I loved life and I was outgoing! However, as I got older, I noticed I was different and felt ashamed of my body. The lack of awareness and opportunities to be around other unique individuals amplified the isolation and negative self-awareness I felt. The nagging feeling of not being good enough stayed with me most of my teenage and adult life. Even though I was sociable and achieving goals in my professional and personal life, I wasn’t happy within myself.
Something changed and towards the end of 2018, I became active on Instagram. Prior to this, I had no idea that the amputee community was so huge! As I began to express myself and my disability through social media, I came to the realisation that people who have shared/are sharing similar life experiences really made a difference in how I felt about my disability. For the first time in my life, I posted a photo of my legs, wearing a skirt WITHOUT stockings! I had always opted for cosmetic life-like covers, I chose to blend in as much as possible. I didn’t actively hide my limb difference but didn’t draw attention to it. If someone asked a question in relation to my legs, I did my best to educate. Something so simple as posting a photo was a significant achievement for me. Now, accepting and embracing my quirks has me proudly displaying my legs. It has enabled me to educate people on disability and amputees to a much greater degree. There are still the stares and inquisitive looks, but I genuinely feel happy enough within myself and can brush it off. I want others feeling overwhelmed with their quirks to know they are not alone. I hope that sharing my experience of self-acceptance will encourage someone to learn to love themselves a little more.
Being open with my prosthetic legs has also highlighted the notion that disability is seen as an ‘inspiration’ to a lot of able-bodied people. I have received numerous comments from strangers such as “you are so brave” for simply walking down the street. I have smiled and thanked them but began to wonder what I am being applauded on – I am just living my normal life, doing basic everyday things. I have been to university and graduated with two degrees (a bachelor and masters) and work full-time. I want to restrengthen the fact someone like me, born without legs, can lead a normal life and do things that non-disabled people do – and I don’t need to be praised for getting my legs on every morning, just like able-bodied people don’t need praise for putting on their shoes! I also want to encourage confidence and give hope to families with young children with disabilities that their child is no less than anyone else and there are no limits to what they can achieve. In saying that, I am happy to motivate people in their lives but would prefer if it were from me conquering obstacles and finding ways to reach my targets. For example, at 29 years of age, I had never run in my life and so I set myself a goal to complete a 5km charity fun run. I was determined and, in my quest to achieve this goal, I came across an organisation whose mission is to empower amputees to reach their sporting dreams. I applied for and was successful in getting a grant to fund running legs (blades). This is something I am proud of as I overcame significant hurdles to reach my aim. I don’t want to be considered an inspiration for just living the life I have been handed (or legged). I want to be admired for setting goals, working through the barriers, and achieving those goals. While my goals might sometimes look different to someone who doesn’t have a disability, the concept is the same. I aspire to be an inspiration for both able-bodied and people with disabilities, for putting my mind to something and doing it. We all face different challenges. How we chose to adapt to these challenges defines us as people.