A big Disney fan, Jarrad Walker has made amazing strides towards his goals of completing several Disney marathons. Jarrad, however, is unable to run due to a series of medical complications.
Instead, he races in a specially designed wheelchair made for racing. His incredible journey proves that determination and effort can lead to amazing results.
With eyes on the pixie dust polished prize, Jarrad has goals of completing Disney marathon races in the not too distant future.
On February 24, this dedicated athlete will be taking his custom wheelchair to race in the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World. Shortly after that, its super Sith speed ahead for the “Star Wars Rival Run" half marathon.
Disney Princess Half Marathon
“It’s an enchanting occasion for princesses and princes of all ages, featuring events for all skill levels, coveted regal medals and Disney entertainment! Meet some of your favorite Disney Princesses, pose for photos and make your way to the finish that ends happily ever after!" – runDisney
Racers depart at 5:30 am on Feb. 24, 2019. The 13.1-mile course begins at Epcot Center Drive, winds throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, finishing at the Epcot Center parking lot. Disney characters and princesses will be on hand to encourage participants.
“Star Wars" Rival Run
With a start time of 5:30 AM the “Star Wars" Rival Run Half Marathon also takes place at Walt Disney World. Participants begin their journey at the Magic Kingdom parking lot and finish at Epcot’s car park, just over 13 miles later. Characters from the Dark and Light sides of the Force will be on hand to cheer racers during the event.
“It’s an epic Star Wars weekend featuring rivalries from the galactic saga. Meet some of your favorite Star Wars Characters, pose for photos and earn collectible themed medals! Become part of an immersive event and experience Star Wars in a whole new way. Join us—and may the Force be with you!" – runDisney
Overcoming obstacles and tracking progress
Inspired by Jarrad’s road to recovery and dedication to fitness, Inside the Magic reached out to this amazing athlete to learn more about his incredible story.
Inside the Magic: Racing marathons is no easy task, racing in a wheelchair is quite impressive. Can you share some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to arrive where you are today?
Jarrad: I have always had to modify the activities that I wanted to participate in to allow for the braces or wheelchair.
Born 1982 with Spina Bifida with Hydrocephalus. I am paralyzed from the waist down I also have multiple deformities in my brain due to the Hydrocephalus. I used leg braces and a wheelchair from the age of 2 until 16 when I decided to give up my leg braces in high school and went to full-time wheelchair use at that time. I have had multiple surgeries throughout my life for various different deformities on my lower extremities. My life seemed normal with various activities such as Pop Warner Football equipment assistant, Youth Alliance Bowling Association (YABA) and Boy Scouts.
In 2012 I had a pressure ulcer where I could not see or feel. At some point, it became infected causing flu-like symptoms. These symptoms lasted more than the average time so the decision was made for me to go to the hospital. This is when I found out about the pressure ulcer. The ulcer caused multiple bacterial infections that were affecting my body and it is at this point I was put into a medically induced coma to allow my body time to heal. During my time in the coma, there were a few surgeries performed to help save my life. Due to laying in the hospital bed and no one moving my legs for me my legs became fused at the joints. After spending 3 years in a hospital bed or being pushed on a stretcher the doctors decided that in order for me to sit they would remove my hips. After sitting in bed, on the stretcher or using a power wheelchair because my knees and ankles were still fused straight, I discussed with the doctor removing my lower legs so that I could get back into a regular wheelchair. It took over a year for this surgery to come to fruition. I had to have multiple psychological exams to make sure psychologically I could handle not having lower limbs.
ITM: What sparked your interest in running marathon races?
Jarrad: After spending years bedridden I was much heavier than I had ever been in my life and very out of shape. Knowing that I could do more I started out just pushing my daily chair around the neighborhood. Once a few times around the block was no longer a challenge I started looking for races to challenge myself. My first few races were 5K’s (3.1 miles). I thought this was a good starting point. Now that I can finish a 5K in about 25 minutes I figure it’s time to up my game to half marathons (13.1 miles). I’m working my way up to a full marathon (26.2 miles).
ITM: Please tell us about your specialized wheelchair.
Jarrad: The racing wheelchair is custom designed and fabricated to the individual racer to achieve maximum performance. I currently use the Top End Eliminator OSR Racing Wheelchair. The racing wheelchair is designed for the track or the road. It is the top choice for champion racers. My chair was fabricated by Top End Sports chairs of Pinellas Park, Florida.
ITM: What have you done to prepare yourself for the goal of a full marathon?
Jarrad: 1st race was called the UO Fun Run 5K held at Universal. The 2nd race was called the Toga 5K Run/Walk in Spring Hill, Florida. This race benefits Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Christian Church and People Helping People in Hernando County. 3rd race was called the All American 5K. This race starts and ends on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It’s a festival put on by Fort Bragg.
I also run virtual runs while training for my future races. I have completed the following virtual races – Americas Run For the Fallen 5K; Run Motivators Series – Horror Themed 13 races in total need to be completed: Friday The 13K and Never Sleep Again 9.10K.
ITM: Aside from the two runDisney events coming up early next year, what other events are on your calendar?
Jarrad: Dec 1st, 2018 I will be doing the UO Fun Run for the 2nd year. Dec 8th, 2018 I will be doing the Challenge for Hope 5K. This is a fundraiser that benefits Give Kids the World Village. The Village is an 84-acre, nonprofit resort in Central Florida. This village provides cost-free vacations to children with critical illnesses and their families. Jan 6th, 2019 I will be doing the Spring Hill Marathon Manian Half Marathon. This event is a Boston Marathon Qualifier.
I would eventually like to complete the Dopey Challenge during Disney’s Marathon Weekend. This is a combination of a 5K, 10K, Half and Full marathon on consecutive days.
Give Kids the World Challenge for Hope takes place on December 8, 2018, at 7:00 AM at Give Kids the World Village (210 S. Bass Rd, Kissimmee FL). Donations can be made directly to Give Kids the World at the event or via mail (see website for details).
Hearing Jarrad’s challenges and learning how he not only overcame these obstacles showcases his determination and passion for staying healthy and enjoying life. When not racing, Jarrad and his family can be seen attending horror conventions, usually in clever costumes crafted to accommodate his wheelchair.
ITM greatly appreciates the time and candor shared by Jarrad Walker here. We hope our readers are just as inspired as we are after learning of his drive for success.