Marathon perfect vehicle to spread uplifting theme

More than 200 ambitious runners will attempt to complete two Rock ’n’ Roll marathons on Sunday — at 7:30 a.m. in San Antonio and at 4:30 p.m. in Las Vegas.

Beth Deloria likely will be the only one to do so despite foot drop — which is paralysis of the lower leg and foot.

The 47-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., has had foot drop since her spinal surgery in 2004 went awry.

“My whole (left) leg was numb,” she said. “When I came out of surgery, the doctors told me there was a chance I’m not going to walk again without a brace and a really good chance I’m not going to run again.”

Inspired by a sign she saw in her doctor’s office — a Japanese proverb, “Fall seven times, get up eight” — and helped by an advanced orthotic device, Deloria eventually got back up and since has tried to motivate others to do the same.

While spreading her message, “Get back up,” she has finished more than 50 races, including 45 half-marathons, over the past 24 months to raise awareness for people with disabilities.

Sunday will be her first attempt at two half-marathons in the same day.

“For me, it’s all about pushing yourself farther than you think you can,” she said. “I feel like I’m running for all the people that can’t.

“There’s never a step I take out there when I don’t think about all the people who would love to be out there.”

Deloria was depressed and didn’t run for three years following her foot drop diagnosis because she couldn’t find a brace that enabled her to run. She wept tears of joy when she finally found one that did.

“When I tried this brace on in my doctor’s office, I started crying,” she said. “That’s how dramatic the difference was. I was literally up and running after getting that brace.”

Deloria qualified for the Boston Marathon four months later with a time of 3 hours, 39 minutes, and eventually began working for Allard USA, the company that makes the aforementioned ToeOFF brace — which acts as a springboard for the foot and mimics the normal motion of the leg.

“I’m not trying to sell their braces,” she said. “The idea is to spread that ‘Get back up’ message. You have to keep fighting because there will be something that works for you.”

Deloria is captain of TeamUP, a national group she helped launched in April with others who have mobility issues caused by foot drop.

The team also features Darren Smith, the 2012 Pan Am paratriathlon champion, and Virginia Mamone, a Las Vegas mobility advocate.

The 48-year-old Smith, who will run in Sunday’s half-marathon here, has had foot drop since his 2002 back surgery resulted in a stroke of his spinal cord artery — which left him paralyzed from the waist down on his left side.

An avid hockey player, mountain biker and triathlete before the surgery, Smith discovered the Challenged Athletes Foundation online while he still was in the hospital.

“I’ve never been one to let stuff stop me from doing anything,” he said. “I was in there looking for stuff to do in a wheelchair because they didn’t think I’d ever have motion in my leg again.

“I was told I’d be lucky to walk again, forget about running or competing in a triathlon. But that sort of drove me more.”

Two years later, Smith finished his first half-Ironman triathlon. Four years later, he finished his first full Ironman — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon, which he walked.

Smith, a chiropractor in Portland, Ore., ran with an ankle brace until he discovered Allard’s BlueRocker brace and began compiling his fastest times.

“It’s night and day,” he said.

Smith’s brace is different from Deloria’s, but he said “they all stop our toes from dragging.”

Although Smith’s seemingly routine surgery to remove a soft tissue mass from his back left him partially paralyzed 11 years ago, he sees it as a blessing in disguise.

“I’ve done so much more since I’ve had this. I don’t know if I’d have done an Ironman if I hadn’t had this injury,” said Smith, a five-time Canadian paratriathlon champ who also has competed in the Paratriathlon World Championships.

Mamone, 40, and two of her children, 17-year-old Marko and 7-year-old Isabella, suffer from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease — a peripheral nerve disorder that also causes foot drop and affects approximately one in 2,500 people in the United States.

“I stopped running right after high school because I felt like I was going to trip,” said Mamone, who started running again last year after receiving new braces and finished her first 5K in the Color Run in Las Vegas.

“When I crossed that finish line, it was like I had run a whole marathon,” she said. “I felt so accomplished. It was exhilarating.”

Mamone had planned to run in Sunday’s Zappos.com 1/2 of the Half before getting sidelined by knee issues, but she’ll still supporting her teammates in the half-marathon.

“I get inspired by seeing my teammates,” she said.

Mamone, who said she’s trying to set a positive example for her kids, has helped revive a local CMT support group (cmtausa.org) that was a great comfort to her after she was diagnosed with the incurable disease.

“When I found out there was nothing they could do for me, I felt completely lost,” she said. “When I found my first support group, I didn’t feel like an alien.

“My goal, for anyone that has CMT, is to make them feel like family.”

On the subject of family, Deloria’s husband, Jim Austin, will run alongside her in both races Sunday, and the couple will renew their wedding vows in Las Vegas at the Run Thru Wedding Ceremony at Mandalay Bay.

Deloria said her busy Sunday will start at about 3 a.m. Central time (1 a.m. Pacific), when she’ll wake up in Texas, pack and bring her luggage to the start line.

After the race — with the help of event organizers — she’ll shower and take a shuttle to the airport for a 12:15 p.m. direct flight to Las Vegas. She’s scheduled to land at 1:10, which she hopes will give her enough time to check into her hotel and get to the start line.

“I’m so excited to be able to do something this crazy,” she said. “I’ve gotten so much inspiration from all the people that I’ve met.

“They keep me motivated to think the impossible is possible.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.