MARQUETTE - When Beth Deloria collapsed in her kitchen in 2004, it would be the start of a journey that would lead her from a tough beginning to now inspiring many like her to get back up.
After her collapse, Deloria was told she had a ruptured disc. What was supposed to be a three-hour surgery turned into a nine-hour surgery and a diagnosis that no one could have predicted.
"I had all of these birth defects, including spina bifida, that I didn't even know about," Deloria said.
At left, Marquette native Beth Deloria holds up the sign she takes to each marathon regarding “Team UP.” The group is comprised of individuals from across the country who work together through disabilities such as strokes, muscular dystrophy and foot drop. (Journal photo by Abbey Hauswirth)
Deloria, right, and her husband Jim Austin run at the Run for Life event that was held Saturday in Marquette. The 10k and 5k walk/run is the 36th race in Deloria’s mission to run 48 races in 24 months. (Journal photo by Abbey Hauswirth)
The Marquette native had been an avid runner for years, particpating in events such as the Chicago Marathon and qualifying for the Boston Marathon on her first try. After the surgery, she was walking with two canes and a brace for foot drop. Her chances of running again were slim.
"I realized how important running was for me. Your identity is wrapped up in the things you do and I felt like I didn't know who I was anymore."
Things came to a head a year and a half after her surgery, while on a trip to Baltimore to visit her sister.
"I was walking with my cane and brace and two runners passed me," Deloria said through tears. "Runners always nod to each other, they recognize fellow runners. They saw me with my cane and brace and I nodded to them and they just kept running. I realized then that I was not recognized as a runner anymore."
Deloria, who said she had never felt sorry for herself before and always focused on recovering, dissolved into tears when she arrived at her sister's home. It was then she decided something had to change.
"A sign in my doctor's office said 'Fall seven times, get up eight,' so I decided that would be my mantra going forward."
Every day after work, Deloria went online to research "athletes with foot drop" though in the beginning she didn't find much. At the same time, braces were being sent from all over, but none allowed Deloria to run.
Finally, the president of Allard USA, a brace manufacturing company, contacted Deloria and offered to let her try their brace for free.
"I remember my doctor putting the brace on and I immediately started to cry. He began apologizing and saying we'd keep trying and I said, '"No you don't understand, I think this is going to work.'"
The first race she attempted with the new brace was the Chicago Marathon. Not only did the brace work, but Deloria ran her fastest marathon ever. She again qualified for the Boston Marathon and went on to run it three more times.
This accomplishment led Deloria to the idea that people just like her didn't have to give up their quality of life. Soon after her story began to spread, Deloria received a call from school teacher in the Chicago area who had foot drop and was suffering from depression due to her inability to run.
"A representative from the Allard company was going to be in her area and brought a brace to the school where she worked," Deloria explained. "She tried on the sample and jogged down the hallway of her school. The staff and students were in tears. They were so happy for her."
That woman went on to run the Chicago Half Marathon with Deloria.
From there, Deloria began gathering with others that had similar disabilities and together they formed "Team UP." Deloria represented them Saturday at the Run for Life event in Marquette. This was the 36th race in Deloria's mission to run 48 races in 24 months.
"People were coming up to me and asking me about my story and sharing theirs," Deloria said. "This trip was so special to me. It was a coming home in many ways."
Deloria will visit Bay Cliff Health Camp today and speak with children who have disabilities. From there she will return to her home in North Carolina for 14 hours and then fly to Seattle for another marathon. To learn more about Deloria and "Team UP" visit the Facebook page "Get Back Up."
Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.