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Palmiero-Winters inspires by example
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Forsyth County News
Amy Palmiero-Winters just won the prestigious James E. Sullivan Memorial Trophy as the top amateur athlete in the country.

And she did it on one leg.

Palmiero-Winters, 37, ushered in this new year by winning the “Run to the Future,” a 24-hour endurance race in Glendale, Ariz. The first amputee winner, she covered 130.4 miles during the race, and her victory clinched a spot on the USA National Team.

So, when the 24-hour World Championships take place in Brive, France on May 13-14, Palmiero-Winters will be the first amputee competing, joining 11 USA teammates.

“It’s sort of like Jackie Robinson breaking the racial barrier in professional baseball,” Roy Pirung, president of the American Ultrarunning Association, told Vicki Michaelis of the USA Today. “I think it’s that high of an impact.”

Palmiero-Winters told Michaelis, “It helps me show people that we all face obstacles. Me being out there helps them see that you can overcome.”

Palmiero-Winters has always been a runner. She ran cross country and track in high school in Meadville, Pa. She ran deliveries for her parent’s restaurant. “Every place she went, she ran,” her father, Larry, told Michaelis.

Then came the accident. In 1994, a car lurched out from a stop sign into the path of her motorcycle, crushing her left foot and ankle.

Like any addicted runner, Palmiero-Winters directed doctors to do everything possible to save her leg. There were skin grafts. Artery grafts. And the surgeries: 25? 30? Nothing worked. Her left foot, once size 7, became a size 4. Her left calf atrophied. Her ankle began to fuse, leaving her left foot barely functional.

That left Palmiero-Winters with no option but amputation. However, that would come after her Farewell To My Left Leg Marathon in Columbus, Ohio.

“When I had my accident, they said I’d never run again,” Palmiero-Winters sold Michaelis. “It was more proving them — and myself — wrong.”

Amy now works at A Step Ahead Prosthetics in Hicksville, N.Y. She’s the program director. Their motto is “Live Life Without Limitations.”

That’s precisely what Palmiero-Winters does. She’s graduated from marathons to triathlons, Iron Man triathlons, and extreme races. “She’s built for them,” her longtime friend Stacy Hatzo told Michaelis. “She can run forever.”

While Palmiero-Winters does possess the distance runner’s physique — she’s 5-foot-8 and 117 pounds — running with a prosthesis isn’t a jog in the park. Any loose gravel can knock her off balance. She must always keep her gait under control, which is nearly impossible when running 100 miles.

“It looks cool, but it’s definitely not as good as the real thing,” she told George Vecsey of the New York Times. “There is no comparison.”

Runners with their original two legs don’t have to stop periodically to empty their prosthesis of accumulated sweat. Nor do they suffer the pain of the end of their thigh bone banging into the top of the prosthesis.

Because Palmiero-Winters runs at slower speeds and over much longer distances than the double leg amputee Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic 400-meter hopeful, she doesn’t receive the benefit of increased sprint speed afforded by the spring action of the prosthesis.

“I ran before I lost my leg,” Palmiero-Winters told Michaelis. “Is it easier now? Not even close.”

Still, Palmiero-Winters won’t-can’t-stop running. Her leg prevents her from doing the 20-50 mile training runs on back-to-back days that are the norm for untrarunners. The friction and pounding forces her to give her residual limb a day’s rest.

She compensates with one 70-80 mile run per week. She’ll head out the door at 8 or 9 p.m., and run all night, leaving her two children (Carson, age 6, and Madilynn, 4) with their caretaker.

“I don’t want my kids to suffer because of my training,” she told Michaelis. “I give up a night’s sleep. That’s good training too, because in a 24-hour race, you don’t sleep.”

A Step Ahead Prosthetics caters to a world-wide clientele, providing all types of people with all sorts of new appendages. Children, too.
Palmiero-Winters takes them out for a spin with their new limbs, getting them to run or rock climb. The only inspiration they need is to look at
her resume.

Not only did Palmiero-Winters complete 10 ultradistance races last year, she also completed six marathons — pushing wheelchairs for disabled participants.

Has she ever regretted her accident? “I would not change a thing,” she told Vecsey. “Not a thing.”

The Sullivan Award goes to the athlete who “by his or her performance, example and influence as an amateur has done the most during the year to advance the cause of sportsmanship.”

Hard to imagine a more worthy recipient than Amy Palmiero-Winters.