Ron Gold C’83 W’83 ran his first marathon in 2011—a beautiful 26.2-mile journey along the Jersey Shore, from Cape May to Sea Isle City. “I had hoped to do more marathons,” he says, “but I never had the chance.”
Later that year Gold was struck by an SUV while riding his bicycle, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He’s since tried to make the most of his life in a wheelchair, pursuing other athletic endeavors such as rowing and launching the caregiving company LeanOnWe [“Ron Gold’s Second Act,” Sep|Oct 2017].
But a marathon felt like a faraway dream from his past life, and he didn’t initially love the idea of competing in races in a handcycle (a three-wheeled cycle propelled by arms rather than legs, often used as an alternative to a bicycle for people with disabilities). “That’s how I got injured—cycling,” he says. “I think the scars were still pretty raw.” Besides, handcycles are expensive and cumbersome for a paraplegic. “I can’t carry it, I can’t store it myself, and I can’t get it out on my own,” he says. “I need a lot of support in order to do it.”
The support would come from an organization called Achilles International, whose mission is to help people with disabilities compete in athletic events. Referred to the organization’s New Jersey chapter by a friend, Gold began riding handcycles in a park—“not on the street, which was certainly something I was apprehensive about”—and enjoyed it. “I was pretty good at it too,” he says. “And they made it easy for me.”
Soon he set his sights on races, entering a 10K near where he lived in New Jersey last spring and the Hartford Marathon in October. That set the stage for the famed New York City Marathon, in which Gold competed on November 5 along with more than 50,000 others—a special experience that was “head and shoulders above anything I could have imagined.”
On a beautiful race day, Gold woke up at 3:30 a.m. to get to Staten Island for the start of the race, which began with the professional wheelchair division and then the handcyclists, followed by the elite women and elite men runners. Because of the staggered start times, Gold completed the course just a few minutes before the winning runners crossed the finish line—and could feel the anticipation building from the crowd as he rode through all five boroughs of New York City and finished in Central Park with a time of 2 hours, 42 minutes.
Gold was pleased to have shaved 14 minutes off his Hartford Marathon time but disappointed he didn’t finish in 2:30 to qualify for the Boston Marathon, a race he’d love to do in the future. “Now I have something to work toward,” he says. “I’m confident I can do it.”
Most importantly, Gold raised nearly $40,000 for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which supports research toward a cure for paralysis. Gold’s donation page can be found at give.reeve.org/fundraiser/4840610. —DZ