Athlete Testimonies

Christy Ray, Achilles Athlete Testimony,  California International Marathon Relay  2017

Athlete Christy Ray and Athlete Ricky JonesI feel this weekend was extremely informative. It was nice to get to know other people that love doing similar things and have similar hurdles to clear to get where they want to be. I wished I would’ve had more time to get to meet more individuals that attended, but there just was not enough time. The race itself seemed very organized and felt like it was super supported by so many different people. All in all, it was a great weekend and I hope to attend again.

Stephanie Zundel , Achilles Athlete Testimony,  California International Marathon 2017

Richard Hunter and Athlete Stephanie Zundel

This past weekend, I participated in the California International Marathon 2017 with a group of athletes and guides from Achilles Nashville. It was such an amazing experience! It was one of my favorite weekends of all times. I met so many incredible people who have accomplished amazing achievements including multiple marathons, ultras, running across the country, the Paralympics, the Olympics, and so much more. This weekend was extremely organized due to the help and generosity of Richard Hunter, USABA, and Delta Gama.

The women from Delta Gamma even watched and took care of the guide dogs, including my Marleykinz, while we ran the marathon. Guiding Eyes shared information about their running guide dog program at breakfast on Saturday. This is such a wonderful program that makes me so excited for running in the future with a guide dog!

I want to thank everyone who helped to make this event and weekend possible. Thank you Achilles Nashville for partnering with USABA this year to send a group of us athletes and guides to California. I truly appreciate all of the kindness. Thank you to my guides Amy and Ed for such a great race. I was only trained for a half marathon and we crushed the full marathon. I PR’d my half marathon (thanks to Amy) and made it over the finish line (thanks to Ed) qualifying for another Boston marathon and getting second place inthe females B1 visual impairment category.

Dwaine Jones, Achilles Athlete Testimony,  California International Marathon Relay 2017
Athlete Dwaine Jones and Guide Randy Jones

Dwaine Jones in the Middle

I am writing you to thank you and inform you all on how amazing and exciting – with a side of nervousness – to be able to attend the California International Marathon/ USABA National Championships weekend. I am happy to say that for my first traveling trip with Achilles guides and athletes this was a great experience for me on both a personal and athletic level. One of my memories (of many) was getting to the hotel and hearing someone standing nearby saying ” there is the legendary Nashville Achilles group!” I really enjoyed the speakers and their stories of how they became the successful individual that they are today.

When I ended the training and the marathon weekend with all the visual impaired athletes and all the guides, it made feel like a family that ran together for years. I also enjoyed running with my friend and guide Randy; he made this course and time on the course my best ever! The course was in my opinion kinda bland because I have been exposed to the beautiful races here in Tennessee more. I am one of those guys that likes to see the city and nature together. I have been spoiled here in Nashville. I will say it was a great feeling though, like we took over the road, with gas stations and stores to ending in front of the capital building. Thank you for all that you do to provide us with the assistance and tools we need to be equals to the running world and show the world the truth about disabilities.

Stephanie Zundel, Achilles Athlete Testimony,  Disney Half Marathon 2017

Athlete Stephanie Zundel on left with Guide Tess GavrielleI just wanted to say thank you for allowing us to have an incredible weekend in Disney Land. Hannah Anderson, Tess Levinson, and I appreciate the generosity of Achilles Nashville as well as Team Cigna. This wonderful experience would not have happened without you guys. We appreciate all of your kindness. We had such a blast from the fun adventures in the two Disney parks to the amazing half marathon through the magical place of Disney Land. We appreciated all of your support from Nashville and felt extremely welcomed by Team Cigna at the half marathon. Again, I just want to say thank you so much for making this magical experience a reality.

P.S.  That was my first time in California and it was AWESOME! Marley agrees with me and gives each of you a happy tail wag and a sloppy kiss. 🙂 I think that means thank you in dog language haha.

Sara Solomon, Achilles Athlete Testimony, Geist 2017

in picture is Guide Lauren Kollinger, Guide Amanda Hachey, Guide Susie Bousquet, and Sara Solomon in the handcycle at Geist Half Marathon

About a year ago, I decided to do the Geist Half Marathon in Indianapolis, Indiana. My mom had been doing this half marathon since the beginning and I decided to join her for the tenth anniversary.  Before I could commit to doing this half marathon I had Carrie, our Executive Director, reach out to the race manager to see if they allowed handcycles. The race manager said that they hadn’t had a handcycle but were thrilled to have their first handcycle. I was honored to be the first handcycle and to represent Achilles. I invited along Amanda H., Susie B., and Lauren K. to guide me in this race. Susie and Amanda rode up with my mom and I. 2 miles into our drive we found out shocking news; Amanda had never played checkers and had never been to a Cracker Barrel. So, we experienced both of those on the way up. Lauren joined us at my Uncle Tom’s house and went out for a pasta dinner.  After dinner, we went out for ice cream and went to bed.

The next morning, we got up and got ready for the race.  This race was one of the hardest because miles 5-9 was all flat or uphill.  I could not have asked for a better team to guide me in this race and my mom even stayed with me.  I finished with a time of 2:38. After the half marathon, we went for pedicures and a good time was had by all.

Ricky Jones, Achilles Athlete Testimony, Philadelphia 2016

Guide Brandon Bradford (left) and Athlete Ricky Jones (right)

First of all, and lastly, let me thank you, the Achilles board, Brandon, Amy, Christine, Lizzy, and my entire Achilles family for the support showed to me not only during training but this weekend in Philadelphia. The trip was a wonderful experience that I am grateful to have had. The atmosphere and hospitality from the Achilles Philadelphia group and the entire city was wonderful. One of the things that I thought was great about this trip compared to a New York trip was that though the city was big and a packed agenda of fun for all, it was relaxed and everyone was allowed to feel free to give their own input and our group really connected or meshed well together. Any problems we had, we faced them together and they were really minor such as rude cab driver or an injury here or there. The race itself was an amazing experience. It was a fairly flat course except for the three major hills, and they certainly made up for the rest of the other flat terrain. The hills were challenging and not spaced out very far apart but it added to the challenge. I was a bit nervous yet felt confident with my guide Brandon and support from everyone going into this race with the injury to my leg that still has not been diagnosed, but I was determined to beat my personal record. I ran hard and I ran the fastest I have ever run before for an overall pace or at least in the beginning. You see, there for a long time I was keeping somewhere around an 11:30-11:45 minute pace poised to crush my previous half marathon pace. Even after the pain really started kicking in, I continued to push and keep my pace only the hills stopped me from maintaining that pace. I finished the race only nine minutes away from a personal record and quite frankly was very frustrated and upset at myself though everyone was encouraging me and giving me loving words. I do feel accomplished not only in my race this weekend but in my overall running career. I have come a long way in the last almost 5 years. In the beginning, I couldn’t even run half a mile without stopping and my pace was somewhere around 15 or 16 minutes per mile. Over the years I’ve gotten faster, trimmer, and built up some damn good endurance. Every Achilles guide every Achilles race that I’ve been sponsored to be in and every opportunity I’m given by Achilles gives me the tools and resources I need to succeed in my running career that I never wanted or thought I would ever have. I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend all the sightseeing of historical significance and really enjoyed talking with other guides and athletes from the Philadelphia group. I think we are building a very strong bond between them and hope that that continues to grow. I am dubbing a new challenge for myself and I am calling it “the mini Peter “challenge. With Achilles help and support, I would like to run a half marathon in every state over my lifetime. I do plan on in the future trying to go for another full marathon or two, but I hope to encourage and make possible the opportunity for Christy and other athletes to have that joy first before I pursue that again. Plus, I need to get my body healed LOL. Once again thank you all for the support, love and opportunity. I can tell you from the person who has very limited income and has come from a situation where I was mad at the world and everything in it because of losing my vision completely, that the opportunities Achilles provide me would not be possible if that support was not there. My life has been enhanced because of the opportunity to me. I am forever grateful!