SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Thousands of runners are expected to cross that finish line for the Rock n Roll Marathon at Forsyth Park, including one woman who is facing a unique challenge.
We have told you about Kelly Luckett in the past. She runs several marathons each year. In fact, she has now run 40 marathon and ultra marathons. The Rock n Roll will be her 41st. But, what makes Luckett's running experience special, is that she is doing it all with a prosthetic leg.
Her right foot was amputated because of a lawnmower accident right before her second birthday.
It was years and years later, as an adult, when she decided to start running. She says back in 2003, she got tired of watching from the sidelines as her husband ran the Peachtree 10k every year in Atlanta, and she decided to start racing herself. "I went as a spectator, and I watched all these people running, and I thought, maybe I could do that," she said. "And, then, just kept running to see how long of a distance I could do."
After her first 10K, Luckett continued to tackle further distances. "So, I went up to half marathons and marathons, and eventually ultra-marathons," said Luckett.
But, running these distances with a prosthetic leg is not only difficult, it is costly. Luckett said even a below-knee prosthetic running leg is about $15,000 dollars and it is not covered by insurance. So, she says she gets assistance from organizations like the Challenged Athletes Foundation
"Most people don't just have $15,000 laying around, so it's nice to have an organization like Challenged Athletes Foundation help out with expenses for running, or a prosthetic company such as Hanger Clinic help with the costs of prosthetics" Luckett said.
During this year's Rock n Roll Marathon in Savannah, Luckett is representing the Challenged Athlete's Foundation and team CHOCOLATE MILK, which sponsors CAF's programs. Luckett says it is the perfect fit. She says she is proud to represent an organization like CAF that provides athletes with physical disabilities, like herself, with race entries and training gear. And, she says she loves chocolate milk.
"For years I've loved chocolate milk after a long run or a race. I just know it tastes great." Then, Luckett said she learned about the science behind it. "It really is an excellent recovery drink. It's got the right ratio of carbs and proteins, it replaces the lost electrolytes, and obviously it's a fluid, so it's great for re-hydration."
And with support for costs, Luckett's next challenge is finding a prosthetic that is the perfect fit for running. She has two legs: one for walking and one for running. The running leg has a carbon fiber blade that provides more energy return and some forward movement, as opposed to the walking leg, which she describes as a little more "clunky" and providing less movement and less energy return.
"I have to go to my prosthetist to have the bottom of the running foot retreaded with the bottom of the running shoes, since I can't just put a shoe on," Luckett said.
But, as far as any pain or discomfort, she says she has no more issues than any other runner.
"There's really nothing different than the rest of my body, or any other runner's body. At some point, everything's going to hurt when you're doing a marathon or a long distance," she said. "Honestly, if I had two real legs, I'd still be a slow runner."
And, she has some simple advice to other runners on race day:
"Just think about the fact that there are people running that have worse physical conditions than maybe what you have," Luckett said. "I do the same thing, even though I have a prosthetic leg, there are people who have a lot more physical challenges than I do that are doing even bigger things than I'm doing."
Many runners will need that extra motivation. Race organizers say one in five people running in the Marathon or Half Marathon are doing it for the first time.
"It's just fun knowing that if I can be of any inspiration to someone, that's great, and that helps motivate me because it keeps me going when I'm feeling like quitting, because I don't want to let people down and I want you to know that if you just have a goal, stick to it, you can do whatever you put your mind to."