Two years ago, Jillian Harpin was vacationing with friends in Mexico when her world turned upside down.
“I went out onto our hotel balcony to make a phone call and when I went to go sit on the railing, I lost my balance and I fell three stories onto the ground below,” Harpin recalled.
Harpin fractured her back and was left paralyzed from the chest down.
“I think what really keeps me going is looking back and seeing how far I’ve come,” Harpin said. “There’s nothing else I can’t conquer.”
Which is why Harpin is participating in this year’s Gaylord Gauntlet.
“The Gaylord Gauntlet is a 5k obstacle run held here at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford,” explained Katie Joly, CTRS, the Gaylord Sports Association Program Manager. “The entire race is on hospital property.”
The race features more than 20 obstacles.
“Things like walls to climb over, rocks to climb up and over, logs to jump around,” Joly said.
Harpin has been training for the past three months for the event.
“So I’ve been doing a lot of strength training and cardio to try to work up my endurance and bulk up these upper body muscles that I’ll have to use to get through all these obstacles on the Gauntlet,” Harpin said.
During the race, she will be using special equipment, including a heavy-duty wheelchair, to help her navigate the rough terrain.
“It’s equipped with these big knobby tires to help me get through the mud, and the grass, and the gravel, and these thick front castor wheels to help me navigate over all the roots,” Harpin explained.
She’ll also use a snow sled to crawl through mud, slide over tires and under logs.
“This course is not designed to be adaptive it’s not accessible,” said Joly. “So it’s a challenge for anyone going through and it’s that much more of a challenge for someone whose going through who does have some physical challenges.”
Ten adaptive athletes will be participating in this year’s Gaylord Gauntlet.
“I’m really excited for when I cross the finish line at the Gauntlet, mostly because I know all of my friends and family are going to be there at the end waiting for me to cross the line and cheering me on,” Harpin said.
For her, the Gauntlet is a symbol of just how far she’s come.
“When tragedies like spinal injuries happen, or traumatic brain injuries, it seems like life is over as you know it, but life really is not over and there’s nothing you can’t really do,” Harpin said.
The purpose of the Gaylord Gauntlet is to raise money for Gaylord’s Sports Association Program, which overs adaptive sports like golf, tennis, water skiing and other fun activities to people who have physical disabilities.
While the registration is closed, with all 1,000 spots being taken, Gaylord is still in need of volunteers for the event happening this Saturday, June 23. To learn more, visit GaylordGauntlet.org.