Quadriplegic prepares for NYC marathon

Scott Rimmer refuses to let being a quadriplegic stop him from achieving new goals.

In 2003, a dirt bike accident in Moab, Utah, left him with a broken neck, paralyzing spinal injuries and a desolate outlook on life. But on Sunday the 38-year-old Port Orange resident is competing in the 2006 ING New York City Marathon.

Just thinking about the challenge puts a smile on his face. The 1988 Spruce Creek High School graduate said he caught marathon fever when he competed in the Walt Disney World Marathon in January this year.

There, he placed first in the Quad division, but it wasn’t just the thrill of winning that fueled his desire to enter other races.

“For me, it’s the enjoyment and the freedom of getting out there,” he said.

Quadriplegia is caused by damage to the brain or to the spinal cord, and the injury causes the victim to lose total or partial use of the arms and legs.

In Rimmer’s case, he is unable to maintain body balance and he doesn’t have the use of his left hand, legs or feet.

Rimmer will use a specially designed hand cycle to navigate the 26.2-mile course, which begins on Staten Island and winds through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan.

In training, he rides five to six miles every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and 20 to 30 miles each Saturday and Sunday. On a flat stretch of road he can reach a speed of 21 mph but he isn’t able to sustain the high speed for long.

“Some days are better than others, but my average speed is anywhere from 12 to 15 miles-per-hour,” he said.

When not riding his hand cycle, Rimmer swims whenever possible and works out on weight machines at the YMCA.

His marathon training regimen is sandwiched between taking classes to obtain a Master’s degree in health-care administration and a full-time job as a medical technologist at Davita Laboratories in DeLand.

Through it all, Rimmer said his mother, Ann Rimmer, continues to be a constant source of inspiration and support.

“I think I realized when he went skydiving back in the spring that there wouldn’t be any stopping him,” Ann Rimmer said.

Her only concern about the New York Marathon is her son’s inability to sweat, which could lead to heat stroke or heat exhaustion. That’s because a damaged nervous system affects his sweat glands and he is not capable of feeling pain, heat or cold in his lower body.

Still, she fully backs his decision to compete in the race.

“He has the strength and the stamina,” she said. “Watching him come through the Disney marathon in 27-degree weather, I just know he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to.”

Richard Finn, director of media relations for the New York Road Runners, said the five-borough race course is demanding for all participants.

“We have five bridges, some turns and inclines; it’s not a walk in the park from the first mile to the last mile,” Finn said. “What all of the athletes accomplish is very inspiring.”

Contemplating the events in his life since toppling over the handlebars of a dirt bike, Rimmer said he realizes the marathon isn’t the biggest obstacle he has ever faced.

“I know it’s going to be grueling and I’m not going up there with the mindset that I have to win,” he said. “I just want to go and compete, and have a good time with my friends and family.”


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