Kerry Gruson and Her Large Team Ran the 5K Race at Tropical Park in Miami Celebrating Veteran's Day
The Floridant/10251639

A Remarkable Accomplishment Attained Since She Can Barely Move

MIAMI - Floridant -- "I was awed at the 48th annual Marine Corps Marathon as I watched Kerry Gruson and her running partner, Caryn Lubetsky, compete in Washington, DC on October 23, 2023. Caryn pushed Kerry in a special racing wheelchair for 31 miles and finished in five hours and 5:13 minutes. Their average speed was just under 10 miles an hour. This was a truly remarkable achievement and was even more impressive knowing that Caryn is 52 and Kerry is 76 years old. They came in first in their category. This dynamic duo had signed up for the marathon but at the last moment decided to petition for entrance to the Marine Corps 50 K. They made this decision because the event coincided with the 50th anniversary of Kerry's "accident," stated Dr. Eva Ritvo.

Kerry Gruson was strangled in March 1974 by a Marine. He was a Vietnam veteran returning from the war. She was a young, beautiful, multicultural, multilingual Harvard-educated journalist. They met in a hotel room in Hawaii where she was to conduct an interview.  He had a PTSD flashback and mistook her for a Viet Cong. He strangled her and then left her for dead. Kerry stumbled out onto the street and has spent the subsequent 50 years recovering.

Two days after the MC50K, Professor Nils Olsen of George Washington University hosted us and we spoke to his students. Their course was called "Extreme Decisions."  A perfect fit for Kerry and Caryn! They discussed the keys to their extraordinary successes which have garnered three Guinness Book of World Records (fastest female duo team at the NYC Marathon, most triathlons by a duo team in the shortest time frame - four in eight days across the state of Florida, and the longest run by a duo team-12 hours); seven Emmys and additional international film awards...not to mention completing countless marathons, triathlons, ultra-marathons, and much more.

Caryn shared that for her 40th birthday, she decided to run a marathon. Her family accompanied her and watched as she crossed the finish line. They were briefly reunited then a bomb exploded. This was the Boston Marathon in 2013. Caryn said the next seconds, minutes, and hours were filled with a jumble of emotions and experiences that were life-altering.

More on The Floridant
Over the following days, she was concerned about how to explain this event to her young children and help them integrate this traumatic experience. The message she elected to impart to them was, "Yes, bad things can happen in the world, but there were only two people engaging in those acts. Hundreds of thousands of people came together in a moment of crisis to help one another...losing all boundaries of race, religion, age, and ethnicity. It seemed everyone was working together to help those that were injured in the terrorist attack." The outpouring warmed Caryn's heart and indelibly changed her life.

Running could no longer be about herself. It had to have a larger meaning. She was introduced to Kerry by a mutual friend. Kerry had been an elite athlete prior to her accident, and she was determined not to let her resulting functional quadriplegia stop her from competing. Kerry fought hard to rebuild her life. She had competed in sailing and scuba diving, and when she met Caryn, she turned to endurance racing. Kerry and Caryn have never looked back.

In addition to racing together, they have formed and run a nonprofit called Thumbs Up International, which pairs athletes needing assistance with those who can help. Kerry's voice is difficult to hear due to her injury. Her movement is limited but she can and often gives an enthusiastic thumbs up.  Hence the name of their organization. Their mission is to Race 2 Educate. They go into schools and teach students to look beyond perceived limitations.

When one looks at Kerry, it would be unlikely to guess she was an elite athlete yet her accomplishments are legendary, and she is a well-known figure in the triathlon world.

Trust and teamwork are the key ingredients to their success. Thumbs Up's motto is "Together We Can."

Kerry requires assistance with everything she does from brushing her teeth to eating. She has learned that her disability has allowed her to create so many meaningful connections. Kerry's documentary,  May I Help You, explains how by needing help, she is giving someone a gift. In the act of helping one another, both the giver and receiver can experience connection, purpose, and joy. We are designed to be interconnected and to help one another. When Kerry asks for help, she's giving someone an opportunity to tap into their natural instinct.

More on The Floridant
Kerry shared with the students her experience with radical forgiveness and why running in this race was so special. She forgave her assailant shortly after the accident. She said it was a necessity because she needed all of her energy to focus on regaining as much mental and physical strength as possible. After her profound injury, she did not have the energy to expand on things like anger, regret, or remorse. These emotions drained her, so she rapidly chose to move beyond them. She sees the Marine and herself as victims of war. She wanted to reconnect with him and let him know that she was living an extraordinary life in spite of, or because of, the incident. Sadly, by the time she was able to discover his name, it seemed he had passed away.

When Caryn isn't running with Kerry she's busy with her multiple other roles in life, including wife, mother of three boys, law professor, and philanthropist. She often runs to raise money for children battling cancer. She has completed the Badwater 135 four times. It is a 135-mile run known as the world's toughest foot race. It takes place in mid-July and begins 282' below sea level in Death Valley and ends at the portal to Mount Whitney at 8, 360 feet. Caryn's secret: Step by Step. She finds the strength to do this race and the other races by staying present in the moment. Her advice to the students was to avoid getting lost or overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them. She attributes her success to her mental fortitude and feels the physical follows suit.

Kerry and Caryn have inspired myriad people watching them on the racecourse and learning about them in schools and around the globe with their multiple documentaries.

"I hope you, too, will feel inspired and remember their words to look beyond perceived limitations and recall their mottos: Step by Step, Together We Can," said Dr. Ritvo

Patrice Samara
Triumph Communications Group

Source: Dr. Eva Ritvo
Filed Under: Non-profit

Show All News | Report Violation


Latest on The Floridant