Guide Testimonies

Amanda Hachey, Guide Testimony, Geist Half Marathon 2017
Guide Amanda Hachey behind Athlete Sara Solomon in handcycle at Geist Half MarathonRunning with Lizzy and the other Achilles guides in the Geist Lake Half Marathon in Indiana was an extra special experience for me (and us all I believe) for so many reasons.  First, Lizzy was the first-hand cyclist to EVER participate in their event so that was awesome and I was honored to be able to join her in that!  Then there was the company that was fantastic, couldn’t have asked for a better group!  Amy, Lizzy, Suzie and Lauren and of course, Uncle Tom were so much fun to spend the weekend with and so accommodating.  It felt like we were a big family from the road trip, games, meals, laughs – so much fun!  And of course, the race itself was great!  It was fun to be a part of this community event and bring the Achilles name up there!  And Lizzy killed it!!  She took those down hills fearlessly and charged through the rest of the course.  I am so proud of all she has accomplished and constantly inspired how she puts her heart into everything.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for her and can’t wait to hopefully be apart of it as well!
Some of those experiences were unique to the Geist Half but in general, that is the feeling Achilles Nashville brings to everyone and I am beyond grateful to be a part of.  It is hands down, 100%, the most positive, resilient, and inspirational group of people I have ever had the pleasure to know.  You truly feel it when you go to the Wednesday (or Saturday) practices, or the races and when you leave you just can’t get enough!  It is almost hard for me to put into words.  You’re not just helping athletes log miles, relationships form and I can honestly say that each athlete has their own unique message to share. Guides and athletes help each other in crossing whatever finish line is set before us no matter the challenge!  Go Achilles!


Susie Bousquet,  Guide Testimony, Geist Marathon 2017
Susie Bousquet Guide with Sara Solomon AthleteThe Geist Half Marathon was definitely a unique Achilles experience. I had only participated in local races with Achilles, so traveling out-of-state was a little different. Because it was an entire weekend, there was more bonding time… which was awesome! For the race, Lizzy had 3 official guides and one unofficial guide: 2 running (Amanda & Lauren), 1 on bike (me), and Amy was the helpful, unofficial guide. I think having a bike guide was beneficial in this race because it allowed Lizzy to have every opportunity to reach her full speed. She even almost caught up on me on bike a few times! I’m so proud of Lizzy and everything she has accomplished since her first half in January; and her being the ONLY and possibly FIRST hand cycle in the Geist Half Marathon EVER really showed her leadership. I think the other runners really enjoyed having us participate and learning about Achilles International


Amy Harris, Guide Testimony, Boston Marathon 2017

Guide Harvey Freedman (on left), Athlete Stephanie Zundel (in the middle), Guide Amy Harris (on rightEn route from a week in Boston seems like a perfect time for a reflection and a thank you to Achilles International-Nashville for allowing me to serve as a guide for the infamous, Stephanie Zundel, who we lovingly refer to as the She-Beast! Participating in the Boston Marathon this past week was a dream come true, on many levels. I spent the remainder of the week in Boston for work and actually at a hotel right on the finish line so I had a daily reminder of how lucky I was.

I had the privilege of running NYC with Stephanie back in November of 2016. As we approached the end of the long, hard training runs, Stephanie commented that this would be her one and only marathon. I mentioned in passing that she might actually qualify for Boston, that is was entirely possible as she was consistently improving on both her speed and her endurance. Stephanie’s response was “I don’t want to do another marathon, no way”, to which I half-jokingly replied “but I do and you are my only hope”! We left it at that and there was never any pressure on her or any other mention of Boston. Until…NYC…once we started the run-in NYC, Stephanie said she didn’t care what her time was as long as it qualified her for Boston…4 hours and 50 minutes later…it DID! That was the beginning of the dream, a BQ (Boston Qualifier!)

Fast forward to mid-January 2017, a few weeks before the marathon training was to begin for Boston. I was trying to get in a few miles before an Achilles practice. It had been raining hard and windy all day. I took to a wet Greenway at dusk only to get a mile out and catch my right foot on a tree limb while running downhill (yes, I had my headlamp on!), and fell hard on my left knee. I immediately knew I had fractured my kneecap. I hobbled back to the community center and once practice was over, went home to ice and elevate my leg all night. The next day, the Nurse Practitioner told me there was no way my knee was broken as I had walked in, and had good range of motion. Following an x-ray that showed a clean break across my patella, I was sent to get an MRI and meet with the sports doctor at Elite. This doctor informed me that I could be thankful there was no ligament damage and that the ACL and meniscus all looked good. It was just a matter of time, patience, and effort and it would heal…but not in time for Boston she said. I explained how important Boston was and she was thankfully very understanding and very willing to help me do whatever I could to do Boston. I left her office in a long leg brace I would wear for the next 6 weeks. I left that office to get on a flight to Houston as I was signed up for the Houston Marathon a few days later. I did not get to participate in that race although it did not stop me from racing around the course to see my daughter, Lizzy, finish her first half marathon in the hand cycle.

I’m not sure I’ve prayed quite as much or quite as hard for something in a long time. I wanted to heal well, I wanted to be strong for Stephanie, and in Boston. I was grateful all along the way for the PT’s that helped, Susie, my personal trainer, for pool running (I have a new respect for the pool!), my yoga and Pilates instructors Lizzy’s handcycle that I rode a lot! …. Time and hard work paid off as my doctor released me to start easing back into running about a month before Boston.

Being in the Boston Marathon is humbling to say the least. The city comes alive for this run and everywhere you go, everyone you see, everything in Boston is connected to the marathon that week. It’s amazing! It was an honor to be a small part of it.  Stephanie was a rock star, such a joy to run with. It was a hot day and she persevered though the miles, with the heat, a little pain, but she ended strong…Boston Strong! I would not have wanted to miss seeing her cross the finish line, so proud of her and also so proud of Harvey, her other guide who really did the majority of the training with Stephanie. What an awesome team!  A highlight for me was it was Stephanie’s dad’s birthday so having him there, along her whole family was wonderful, and to witness such loving support. It’s no wonder she has gone so far in her life….it was fun seeing all the attention she got from news folks both in her home town and Nashville where she is a student. So well deserved. I will proudly wear my yellow and blue Boston race shirt and remember how fortunate I am to have been able to run this race.

I am so grateful to Achilles too for this trip, to the Board, to our Chapter leader Carrie, to my fellow guides and all our amazing athletes for the support and for the encouragement along the way…for the opportunity to run with this amazing athlete I am blessed. Being on the plane up with Melanie Yappen (our Achilles past president) and friends added to the joy and made the trip even more special. Being a part of Achilles on a larger level, with our athletes and guides from around the world, is also very inspiring and always fun. It’s a joy to watch them all run their race and to cheer each other on along the way.

Pics of Samuel and Phillip on Amy Harris's pants legs fThis year I ran with a picture of my two sweet grandsons, Phillip my youngest running buddy, and sweet Samuel 3 months old who has had some medical issues and recently had a shunt put in. I ran with a picture of my co-workers grandson who was just released from Vanderbilt after 7 of his 8 months in the hospital and who has had open heart surgery and multiple other surgeries along the way. I ran with a picture to remind me of my Achilles running friends Amanda and Brandon, who have been having some medical issues prior to the birth of their son Mason (coming soon!)….all these young angels lifted me and my spirits and reminded me that we all have challenges….Be STRONG…Boston Strong!

Back of Amy Harris with Guide bibs and pics of co-workers son and baby mason nameI feel like my prayers were answered and that even though I had to slow down a little along the way with training, in the end, I crossed the finish line and in the end, it was the slowing down before the run, that really helped me to appreciate what we all have, to appreciate the support of friends, caregivers, loved ones, doctors, therapists, and others.

Running is a gift and one that I will forever treasure as long as I can. Boston will live on in my mind as one of the highlights of my running days.


John Lavey, Guide Testimony, NYC Marathon 2016

Athlete Joe Shaw (on left) with Jon Lavey (on right)This is the second time for Joe and I to run the NYC marathon. Both times have been spectacular experiences. This year, I am most proud of the fact that Joe and JP finished together, and Joe shaved something like one hour (or 40 minutes, I’m not entirely sure as I don’t remember last year’s time) off his PR. Our training team included other guides, including Phil Meyer and Mike McGuffin, in addition to Frank and I. Our training was very disciplined, and the hard work really paid off with this race. Of course, with our team, there is a lot of laughter along the way.

In the days before the race, I really enjoy getting to meet the other athletes and guides from Nashville, who I don’t know as well because our training is really focused on the athletes we are with. It was great to be with Stephanie and Theresa this year, as well as Harvey and Lauren. Amy, of course, is our field leader when we are training and competing for the race.

I am so grateful for the opportunity of going to NYC for this race. I have been a runner since I was 14. And, nothing is more meaningful to me than the experience of guiding. New York is kind of the ultimate. The familiarity that the spectators have with Achilles makes the support almost overwhelming. Meeting athletes and guides from around the world is super cool. I definitely feel a part of something bigger than myself.

When the music of New York, New York starts up, it’s hard not to get emotional. All the hard work that went into being there, and then the experience of all those New York neighborhoods makes it one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

Thank you to Achilles for the well-run chapter we have, and the opportunity to be a part of this ride.

Frank Downey, Guide Testimony, NYC Marathon 2016

Guide Frank Downey (on left) with JP Williams (on right)It was really an unbelievable experience that I will never forget.  (Running the Marathon after many times saying “NO WAY” when asked if I would ever do a full.)

I was really blown away by the size and importance of the Achilles athletes from all over the world.  (I believe that 300 Achilles athletes participated in the race.)  It was very clear to me that the close relationship between the New York Road Runners and Achilles made us feel like a group of VIPs in the race.  From our own check-in booth at the Expo to a police escort on Achilles buses to the start line at Staten Island where we were taken to the Achilles tent in prime location. But the most humbling aspect was the support and encouragement that we all received not only from the crowd, but also from other runners who all seemed extremely familiar with and very supportive of our efforts.  Our group heard “Go Achilles” about a thousand times along the 26.2 mile course.  (And we really needed it…especially hitting the Park at the end!!)

I am so grateful, proud, and blessed to be a part of Achilles and specifically with this team that went to New York.  AWESOME!  Great race by all!!