The joy of hanging with paralyzed athlete Beth Sanden isn’t because of her exceptional ability to coach able-bodied as well as challenged athletes. And it isn’t about her adventures completing marathons on the globe’s seven continents with a handcycle.
It’s not even about her courage to head to the North Pole in a few weeks to test herself in a marathon atop moving ice in temperatures as low as 40-degree below zero — although there is all that.
It’s about the 62-year-old’s empathy, her giving, her energy.
Forget Monster and Red Bull drinks. You walk away from Sanden with more power, more cheer and the belief that you can tackle just about anything.
Sanden, a world-class triathlete before the accident that damaged her spine, doesn’t just walk the talk. She is the walk.
On top of the planet, she will face the worst nature has to offer despite the very real possibility that the blood in her almost lifeless legs will clot and freeze, that their life-giving cells could die.
But Sanden is on a mission of global significance. She wants to do nothing less than prove the impossible is possible.
Of her North Pole marathon, Sanden explains, “I want to motivate others. So many people are stuck and can’t get out of their own way. If an old lady can do this, then anybody can do this.”
The San Clemente resident volunteers tirelessly for the Challenged Athletes Foundation in San Diego, has brought handcycles to Africa and South America, has inspired disabled people in Tasmania, China, Vietnam, Peru, Tanzania.
“People with disabilities have just as much life as anybody else,” Sanden says. “There’s a whole world out there. You can do a sport. You can go back to college, get an education.”
But it’s not just about the disabled. In an amazing turn of events, it is the disabled who often end up inspiring the able-bodied who sit on the sidelines of life.
I’ve known Sanden for more than a decade and cycled and swam with…