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The disabled are getting up and moving 

Good Dirt

It's a story that many American men — and quite a few women — can understand. You work hard in school, get an education, find a job and then sit behind a desk.

Sometimes the money is good, but the overall game plan often results in a beer gut and high blood pressure.

Kevan Worley knows the routine. He competed as a trim and strong wrestler in high school and college. But work life, the desk job, took its toll as time dragged along.

He stepped on the scale two years ago and it read 230 pounds. The wrestler's body had walked off the job. He had to get moving, and running seemed like a logical choice.

It was painful at first, but he slowly built up to 15 miles a week, and he recently completed the Bolder Boulder 10K. Not bad for a 58-year-old man who has faced more challenges than most.

Worley was born blind, but his condition never held him back. He is well-known and respected in Colorado Springs' business and nonprofit communities. Along with blind runner Jessica Beecham, Worley founded WE Fit Wellness (wefitwellness.com), helping disabled folks to "find accessible, affordable and achievable exercise and nutrition solutions." They also started the "Find Your Fit" podcast to complement the new business.

"I realized that people with disabilities are twice as likely to become obese and sedentary as the general population," Worley says.

"So I need to lead the way and help change that."

He discovered Achilles Pikes Peak, a nonprofit organization that helps disabled athletes lead active lives. He joined the group for its weekly runs at Colorado Running Company in Colorado Springs.

At first the running included a lot of walking, but he gradually became stronger. In April, he completed the 10-mile Cherry Creek Sneak, running along with guide Brandon Stapanowich.

"It was awesome," Worley says. "The cool thing about racing crowds, they cheer no matter what, they want you to do well. I think it's important to get people with disabilities engaged in this community so that they get those cheers."

And now his running has opened a whole new chapter. Worley plans to run in the New York City Marathon in November.

The thought of completing the daunting race of 26.2 miles is a little intimidating, to say the least.

"Yeah, hell yes," Worley says. "But these guys encouraged me to do this. I said you're nuts, I can barely do six miles. But in the podcast we talk about empowering people and pushing your limits. So if I'm going to preach it, then I need to try to do it. I made a public pledge to run the New York City Marathon. And once you make a pledge publicly, you have to follow through."

Beecham, 31, has participated in the Achilles program for four years and has three marathon finishes, including the Boston Marathon, to her credit. She can see large shapes and colors, but she is legally blind, meaning she sees 10 percent or less than that of a person with healthy vision.

"I think running is such a great opportunity to challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone," Beecham said. "One of the things I've never been super comfortable with is hills."

And so she is going to run up and down the biggest hill she can find. Beecham plans to run in the Pikes Peak Marathon in August.

She'll be the first blind person to do so, according to race director Ron Ilgen.

"There are blind people out there doing amazing things," Beecham said. "For me, it's all about pushing myself, showing the community at large that there are people who want to be part of that community. It brings awareness that there are needs for guides. I think it is as much for people who aren't blind as it is for people who are."

For more information about opportunities for blind athletes, check out the United States Association of Blind Athletes at usaba.org. Anyone who wants to go for a run with Achilles Pikes Peak can visit the organization's Facebook page, or better yet, just show up at the Colorado Running Company, 5262 N. Nevada, #140, on any Monday at 5:45 p.m.

  • "For me, it's all about pushing myself."

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