As the new year approaches when many people are making resolutions, one woman is celebrating the achievement of a world record. Jami Goldman-Marseilles, Össur ambassador and full-time kindergarten teacher in Garden Grove, Calif., became the first bilateral amputee woman to run a full marathon after completing the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 11, 2015.
“I have always focused on the love of life to carry me through this incredible journey,” she told O&P News. “When I lost my legs, I was forced to grow up quickly and face a different kind of normal.”
Taking baby steps
Marseilles lost both her legs below the knee due to frostbite after being stranded with a friend in a car for 11 days after a snowstorm when she was 19 years old. Following her amputations, her doctors told her to begin exercise immediately, something she was not used to.
“Growing up I never participated in exercise of any kind. I enjoyed skiing, which I began in high school, but that was it,” she said. “I listened to the doctors and began my life-changing journey by choosing a healthy path.”
She decided to run at her prosthetist’s suggestion after the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta. Years later, a close friend also gave her the idea to run a full marathon. Marseilles felt it was the perfect way to remember her grandfather, a strong believer in the benefits of exercise.
“I was astonished watching people [with] missing limbs like me run fast,” Marseilles said.
Now 46 years old, Marseilles has run in four half marathons, a plethora of 5K and 10K races and on behalf of the Challenged Athletes Foundation she ran 10 miles in La Jolla, Calif.
“I did my research and discovered that there [was] not one woman in the world of my disability class that [had] ever run a full marathon. From that moment, the mental training began,” Marseilles said.
“As an Össur Ambassador, Jami has been an inspirational athlete and role model to people everywhere,” said Jon Sigurdsson, Össur CEO, said in a press release. “We salute her accomplishments, as she truly embodies what it means to live a life without limitations.”
To train for the Chicago marathon, Marseilles ran for between 2 days and 3 days per week and attended UltraFit Bootcamp in Huntington Beach, Calif., a gym with a strong focus on cardio and strength training.
“I have always supported my love of a healthy lifestyle by attending a gym and using versatile weight-bearing exercises,” she said. “I believe this combination helped me get in the best shape of my life.”
Her daily running routines fluctuated depending on the race and the time of year. Marseilles would run 1 day each week for speed and 1 day at medium speed for between 7 miles and 12 miles, with a weekly long run of up to 19 miles.
She trains and runs with her best friend, Molly Karl and together they attend the UltraFit Boot Camp. Marseilles said she and Karl push each other through challenges.
“I look at life as a full-time training session: the more physical I can be on a daily basis, the healthier I keep my body,” she said. “I prefer to be in constant motion [rather] than motionless; I look at my life as being in full-time training mode.”
Marseilles finished the marathon in 6 hours and 27 minutes, with a pace of 14:47 per mile.
“Running has changed everything for me. It has enabled me to feel whole again and it has supported me physically even when I felt my body was failing me,” she said.
According to Marseilles, when she first learned to run she was scared to fall because it was difficult to stay balanced but with plenty of practice and courage, she gained confidence with her running legs.
Marseilles has mentored many of the women survivors from the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. She taught them the importance of maintaining a good relationship with their prosthetists to have an active life and also explained life expectancies of prostheses throughout daily life activities.
“I remind myself all the time how important life is. I was saved on that mountain for reasons bigger than me…” Marseilles said. “My philosophy reflects that of an appreciation for life while living with constant love for all others and myself.”
Marseilles plans to run in three races in 2016, including the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach, Calif. in February, the Boston Marathon in April and the San Diego Triathlon Challenge in October.
“I would love to improve my time in both races,” she said. “I am using a new [prosthetist] and we are working on some kinks. I know it will definitely improve my time and my quality of running, I am looking forward to that.”
Marseilles hopes to run the Boston Marathon in 6 hours and 15 minutes or less.
On being named the first bilateral amputee woman to run in a marathon, she said, “It feels absolutely incredible. This title will be mine forever. Knowing that I paved the path for more amputee women to pursue a career in distance running fills my heart with joy.”
Marseilles added, “I know I am paying it forward by providing inspiration to people with physical challenges. I have learned firsthand that with hard work and resilience anything is possible.” – by Monica Jaramillo
- I am Jami. The Jami Goldman story. Available at: www.iamjami.com. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Disclosure: Marseilles reports she receives funding from Össur as Össur Ambassador.