At 5:30 A.M. this morning, when some of us were copping an extra hour of sleep, my sister-in-law Kerry Gruson was boarding a bus to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island, the starting point of today's 2019 New York City Marathon.
A veteran of countless competitive endurance races, today marks Kerry’s first run of the iconic 5-borough route. That dream coincides with another — to earn a second coveted spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. This time, with her racing partner Caryn Lubetsky pushing her in a specially outfitted wheelchair, Kerry’s vying to set the marathon world record for “Fastest Female Duo Team.”
Kerry Gruson is a 72-year old athlete. She’s also a quadriplegic.
When she was 26, she was a golden girl of the Boston alternative journalism scene, a free-spirited Harvard graduate who had it all. Then, in the blink of an eye, her life changed irrevocably. As this piece in the Palm Beach Post recounts, “On a reporting trip to Vietnam, she stopped in Hawaii to interview a former Green Beret. He strangled her in a psychotic incident, thinking she was a Viet Cong soldier. The lack of oxygen left her paralyzed, her head permanently tilted to the right side. But not defeated.” Kerry went on to work in the Miami bureau of The New York Times before trading in her day job to start Thumbs Up International, a non-profit organization hellbent on shattering stereotypes about the disabled.
Her gift for shameless — and selfless — promotion to raise awareness about disabled issues is legendary. Headlines capture her grueling schedule of marathons and triathlons. She is the subject of an Emmy-award winning film. She even had a star turn in a Stouffer’s TV commercial. And yesterday, she and Caryn, an indomitable ultramarathoner who witnessed the horror of the 2013 Boston Marathon carnage, were the United States flag standard bearers at the NYC Marathon parade.
Kerry is the poster woman for the power of grace. Forced to choose how she could salvage her life in the wake of an unspeakably cruel twist of fate, she chose public service. As my husband and I sat visiting with her yesterday — her whisper of a voice amplified by a microphone headset — I thought about the silver lining of our times: the resurgence of a committed citizenry dedicated to improving the quality of life for the public good.
As traumatic as the past 1016 days of this administration have been, we have carried on with an unprecedented groundswell of activism. We are actively working to save the soul of our democracy. And we are supporting those who vow to restore integrity and our American values to the elected offices they seek. Yes, we are still dispirited and anxious about the future. But, victories in the midterms and special elections have shown us we also have the power to make a difference. Just as we will again at the ballot box on Tuesday.
*Help Get Out The Vote this Tues., Nov. 5th. Whether you go local or branch out to state races in Kentucky or Virginia, just do something. As former Republican congressman David Jolly says, “We need to beat every Republican. Every single one.”
*Contact your local Democratic Town Committee first thing tomorrow. Volunteer to help GOTV. *Help flip the Kentucky governor’s office. According to Nate Silver, Democrat Andy Beshear has a real chance to beat Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who eviscerated the state’s health care system. Volunteer to do remote calling for Beshear here. Then reward yourself by savoring every syllable of Margaret Carlson’s delicious takedown of Mitch McConnell in the Daily Beast, “Kentuckians have finally had about enough of Mitch McConnell.”
*Help flip the Virginia state legislature. Let’s not have a replay of what happened to Shelley Simonds who ran for the VA House of Delegates back in 2017. Shelly and her GOP opponent, the incumbent in House District 94, each received 11,608 votes. An official drew a name at random to decide the election, and the GOP candidate won. Sign up here to do remote calling starting today through Tuesday, November 5th.
If you’re still not fired up and ready to go, watch this classic pep talk from President Obama. (No matter that it targets voters in Colorado. The thrill is universal.)
Finally, as I wrap this up, Kerry is probably in the home stretch of the marathon. With her in your orbit, inspiration and optimism are always within reach. Kerry never gives up. Now that we’re exactly one year away from Election Day 2020, neither can we.
Talk about a sea of humanity.
Your outpouring of admiration and appreciation for my sister-in-law Kerry Gruson profoundly touched us both. Scores of you wrote and inquired how she did in yesterday’s New York City marathon, so here’s the update.
Kerry and her racing partner Caryn Lubetsky crushed it. They notched a new Guinness world record for the “Fastest Female Duo Team” in a marathon. Toppling the old record of 4 hours, they clocked in at 3 hrs., 54 mins., 25 sec.
More importantly, they underscored the mission of the nonprofit (www.thumbsupintl.org) Kerry started. “I want to show people that they can do whatever they set their hearts on,” Kerry said. “We are limitless. All of us are limitless."
Carry Kerry's spirit on to Election Day tomorrow -- and never doubt that what you’re doing to take back our country makes a difference.
Kerry and Caryn tell their inspiring story on GMA!