Sarah Reinertsen has pretty much done it all. She’s competed in various Ironman triathlons, a handful of half-Ironmans and marathons. She has even been a contestant on the hit CBS show “The Amazing Race”. What’s remarkable is that she is an amputee who did not allow her disability to slow her down every time she competed. In fact, she is the first prosthetic leg runner to compete in the World Marathon Challenge. The challenge is running seven half-marathons on all seven continents in over seven days.
The insane travel schedule didn’t even phase Sarah in the slightest. She credits her experience competing in The Amazing Race as the unique travel training that allowed her to even think it was possible. That didn't stop her as she signed up for the World Marathon Challenge two years ago in support of Ossur. Ossur is a non-profit organization that aims to help those with disabilities unleash their full potential.
As a triathlete, her training schedule consists of a lot of biking during the week and running on the weekends. Her running workouts would last two hours in the morning and another two hours in the evening. To help her heal and relax, Sarah has relied on yoga and does sessions a couple times a week.
While competing in the World Marathon Challenge, Sarah herself was dealing with her own set of obstacles. She said that it was the hardest thing she ever did. She even thought about bowing out during the Lisbon leg of the challenge. However her purpose and her willingness to suffer for the sake of that purpose kept her going.
Learning to Overcome Challenges at a Young Age Helped
Sarah didn't start out this way. At age 7, Sarah suffered from a tissue disorder that would eventually lead to an above the knee amputation of her left leg. She returned to playing sports, but her disability had her at a disadvantage. Her coaches didn’t allow her to play, because they weren’t sure how to use her. Her parents inspired her to not let her disability get the best of her and become the first prosthetic leg runner to compete in a marathon.
Role Models Who Are Prosthetic Leg Runners Provided The Fire Inside
Her parents, avid runners themselves, have competed in several races. When Sarah would watch from the sidelines, she often wondered if someone like her as a prosthetic leg runner would compete despite dealing with a disability. A spark that lit her competitive fire came in the form of a runner and fellow amputee named Paddy Rossbach. Then 11 years old, Sarah was watching her dad compete in a race and noticed Paddy running with a prosthetic leg and going at the same pace as the rest of the pack. That’s when Sarah stopped viewing her disability as a hindrance.
Her first major accomplishment came at the age of 13, when she set a new world record in the 100 meter for above the knee amputees. She would set another world record in 1999 in the 400 m and still remains unchallenged today. In 1992, she represented the United States in the Summer Paralympic games. However, due to the low number of competitors, Sarah’s competitors were mostly arm amputees. Though she held the world record in her class, she finished last in her heat. After the Paralympics, Sarah decided to take time off from competitive running.
This lead Sarah was to obtain her degree in Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and International Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Later she obtained a Master’s in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She would then later become a sports journalist for NBC before venturing out on her own as a motivational speaker.
Mindset is the Key To Reaching Stretch Goals
But her passion as a prosthetic leg runner was reignited when she witnessed running marathons on television and decided to compete in the long distance races herself. Sarah would spend the next decade training for what would eventually be her first Ironman competition. In 2004, she missed the biking time by 15 minutes. In the following year, Sarah completed the race in 15 hours and 5 minutes while hundreds of her two-legged competitors were still going.
Sarah utilizes her competitive running spirit as one of the many ways to advocate for runner with prosthetic legs. On and off the race course, she is spreading her beliefs that those with disabilities can be able to break down the barriers. She constantly preaches that prosthetic leg runners can accomplish anything with hard work and dedication. She hopes that she will be able to ignite the competitive fire of her fellow amputees the same way Paddy Rossbach did for her as a child.