Jami Marseilles is hoping to become the world's first double amputee to complete a full marathon
They say that life can change in an instant, but on December 23, 1987, Jami Marseilles wasn't thinking about any future life changes or, for that matter, anything other than getting on the road so she and her roommate could be home in time for Christmas. But after they set out, a record-breaking Arizona blizzard hit hard and fast, quickly trapping their car. The two girls were stuck in their car without food or heat for an agonizing 11 days before they could be rescued. They both survived, but Jami suffered permanent damage from severe frostbite and had to have both her legs amputated below the knee.
In that instant, Marseilles's whole life changed.
But as she struggled to adjust to life as a bilateral amputee, she had one powerful supporter who never left her side: Her grandpa. Unlike others around her, he didn't believe in coddling the young woman, instead showering her with tough love. One of his passions was exercise and he was convinced that getting Marseilles to workout would be key to helping her heal and move on from the accident. Unfortunately, her beloved grandfather died in 1996, but Marseilles kept following his advice. Then, one day ,her prosthetist showed her a video from the Paralympics. One look at the the amazing athletes and she knew what she wanted to do: long-distance running.
"I never ran when I had legs, and now I had to learn how to run on robot legs?" she laughs. But she says she felt the spirit of her grandpa urging her on so she was determined to find a way. Marseilles connected with Össur Prosthetics, who hooked her up with a pair of their Flex-Run feet.
Thanks to the high-tech prosthetics, she took to running quickly—but that doesn't mean it hasn't been hard. "The toughest thing I face is working with my residual limbs," she says. "I sometimes get skin rashes and abrasions so I have to listen to my body and always be prepared while I'm out running."
All that training, preparation, and pain has paid off—not only is Marseilles a runner, she's hold the world record as the first and only bi-lateral below-knee woman amputee to run a half marathon. In between training runs, she's found time to appear in commercials for Adidas and Mazda and in the films A.I. and Minority Report, and even wrote a book about her experience, Up and Running: The Jami Goldman Story.
This weekend, however, she'll take on her biggest challenge yet: She's running the full Chicago marathon on October 11. She has no doubt she'll plow through those 26.2 miles and become the first female double-amputee to do so. The key, she says, is a great group of running buddies, plus family and friends to support her along the route. But when things get really tough, she has a secret weapon.
"I always remind myself how far I've come, and if I can survive 11 days stranded in the snow, I can get through anything," she says, adding, "I've learned that pain is temporary but quitting is forever." And she has a message for the rest of us struggling to meet our fitness goals, no matter what challenges we're facing: Never, ever, give up.
We won't—and we'll be one of the many cheering for her as she crosses that finish line this weekend!