Salena Sahme has a 15-week plan.
The 23-year-old has been training in her wheelchair at the Warm Springs Elementary School track at least four days a week for the past three weeks. She was up to 4½ miles last week and will try for 5 miles this week to increase her distance and stamina level.
“Every time I go, I keep going and going and try not to stop,” Sahme, of Warm Springs, said Friday. “On the last week, I want to gain 20 miles in one day.”
Nearly four years after she was injured in a car accident, Sahme is taking major steps toward competing in the Portland Marathon in October. Right now, that goal depends heavily on whether she can raise $6,600 to cover travel and room costs and the purchase of an all-terrain handcycle.
Sahme has been a paraplegic since July 2010. She was riding in the passenger seat of a car driven by her cousin when they took a sharp turn and he lost control.
The car took a tumble and rolled five times, over a boulder and hitting a tree, before stopping.
Sahme was the only one of the three passengers with serious injuries and was airlifted to then-Mountain View Hospital in Madras for treatment of injuries, including a fractured spinal disk, a shattered right ankle and a dislocated right leg.
“It was really rough. I had quite a few injuries, and I was out for two weeks,” she said. “It took me a while to actually get out of bed because of the fractured disk in my spine. I had to sit up at a certain degree for almost a month.”
Sahme’s mom, Becky Picard, said that Sahme has rarely left home since the accident, and they’ve been slowly pushing her to become more active.
Picard, 43, said she came home from work one afternoon to find out about Sahme’s plan.
“She said, ‘Hey mom, what do you think? I’m gonna do the marathon in Portland — 26 miles,’” Picard said. “It brought my heart a lot of joy in just knowing that she was going to heal and that she was serious.”
Sahme said she was inspired by a YouTube video of a man competing in the Portland Marathon using a handcycle.
“It really touched me. It made me want to push myself more to do it,” said Sahme, who is taking GED classes and hopes to enroll in Portland Community College once she earns her GED.
Marathon participants can use a wheelchair, but Sahme feels a handcycle would be more suited to her experience level and the challenging course. The handcycle has three wheels with pedals at the bottom for steering and hand pedals to power the vehicle.
“It’s a really big challenge, because for the wheelchair division, we can’t do the half-marathon; we have to do the full 26 miles,” she said. “I get scared a lot, even in my chair, going down steep hills and everything.”
Once she reaches 10 weeks of training, Sahme will move to a blacktop area in Warm Springs to get used to going up and down hills. She wants to purchase the custom-made handcycle by the first week of August so she can have a few weeks to train herself to use it before the marathon.
“They have a few videos of people using it and handling it uphill and on gravel,” she said. “I’m hoping I’ll get the hang of it.”
Sahme’s determination runs deep. Whether or not she can raise the money to purchase the handcycle, she said she may still try to compete in her wheelchair. She registered for the marathon last week, and her family has already booked rooms in Portland for the event.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” Picard said. “We’re all here for her and supporting her in every way we can.”
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