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Paralyzed OC woman to compete in Great Wall Marathon

April 29, 2011 12:31:26 AM PDT
A special athlete from San Clemente traveled to China on Thursday morning, ready to compete in what could be the toughest race of her life. An accident left her partially paralyzed, but she's not backing down from the grueling Wall of China Marathon.

After months of training, Beth Sanden is anxious to take on the most challenging race of her life.

"I'm ready. I want this over with now," she said with a laugh.

The 56-year-old will compete in the marathon near Beijing on Sunday.

Most of the 26.2 miles takes place on the wall, at times climbing three-foot stairs. The terrain is uneven and is challenging for any athlete. But Sanden is not the average competitor - her left leg can't move on its own.

"I literally climb with one leg, so it will be one leg and a lot of arm work," she said.

A bike accident in 2002 left Sanden partially paralyzed. She can still use her arms, so she started working out.

"When they told me I'd never walk again, I was able to get out of the chair and walk around 14 months later," Sanden said.

Since then, Sanden has completed dozens of races, including the Boston Marathon last year, where a Chinese official noticed her and invited her to the Great Wall Marathon.

The Great Wall of China Marathon usually has a cut off time of about eight hours, but organizers are giving Sanden 10 hours to finish the race.

Sanden's training has included climbing stairs with her walker and tackling hills on her hand cycle near her San Clemente home.

"I'm just so proud of her, I'm so proud of what she's done in the last few years," Cynthia Tye of San Clemente. Tye admitted she had doubts about whether Sanden would finish the marathon.

Despite doubts, her friends support her. One even helped design a device to help her lift her leg.

"What I do is climb up one stair at a time and lift my leg up and put it down and hoist myself up with the walker," she said.

It's a challenge for a cause. The personal trainer is raising money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a group that helped her after her accident. She hopes in turn to inspire others to never give up.

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