When Leslie Thabes was a young girl, she dreamed of making the U.S. Ski Team. Being hearing-impaired only fired her competitive spirit. By 1975 she was a member of the United States Ski Association Ski Team for the Midwest Division and her goal seemed within reach.
Then, that year, a ski-lift accident left her with a permanently impaired ankle - and shattered hopes.The years passed, but her love of competition never dimmed. Today, Thabes, of Midvale, is still competing - as a member of the Utah Chapter of the Achilles Track Club, an international club for runners with disabilities.
Friday, she completed the Deseret News/Granite Furniture 10K in approximately one hour, 40 minutes - earning her first place in the Achilles women's 10K division. In the two years since the chapter was organized, Thabes has only missed one race in which Achilles was involved. Her goal is to one day run a marathon.
Thabes is not alone in athletic zeal despite physical challenges. Other members of the Utah Chapter of the Achilles Track Club also competed in both the marathon and 10K. Bonnie Anjier of Salt Lake City, finished second in the women's Achilles 10K division in 2:45. Anjier, who has cerebral palsy, is also a member of the chapter's board of directors and a charter member of the track club.
In the men's Achilles 10K division, Eric Carrillo of Salt Lake City, who is blind, took first place in a time of 1:00. Only 20 seconds behind him was Jack Richmond of Sandy, Utah. Richmond, also on the board of directors, lost a leg a decade ago and runs on a prosthesis. Finishing in third place in 1:12 was Gary Hahn of Salt Lake City. Hahn was running his first official race. He did so on a dare from friends and received a division medal as a result.
Participating in his first marathon, Dan Maughan of Orem, Utah, riding a recumbent tricycle, crossed the finish line in 2:30. A decade ago, after a car/pedestrian accident left him with permanent brain injury, completing a marathon didn't seem likely.
Ironically, Maughan didn't intend to enter the marathon when he was told about the Achilles Track Club. But he had been training in the hills by Provo and "thought it would be fun
to run the marathonT. Since then, I've continued on the hills."
Good thing, since the first 10 miles of the marathon is uphill.
Perhaps Ken Duke, president-elect of the Achilles board of directors, who is also blind, best described the competitive spirit of disabled runners: "Barriers are in the mind, not the body."
For information about the Achilles Track Club - Utah Chapter, call Julie Dockstader at 236-6043 or Ken or Sharon Duke at 278-2971. Membership is free, and includes escorts for races, coaching and T-shirts.