On Sunday January 16th, 2011 a unique group of individuals set out to compete in the second annual Sunshine Insurance Marathon Bahamas. What made this team extraordinary were not their prosthetic legs but rather their spirit of determination. Six different human stories made up this remarkable group, Erin Brown who lost her leg to bone cancer, Jamal Nottage, who lost his in a motorcycle accident, Tenneson Leslie whose leg was amputated after a Cat Island boat accident and Aaron Sands who became an amputee because of diabetes.

The team was not strictly an all-amputee team; Antonia Simmons and Van Demeritte, two enthusiastic supporters completed the team. Each amputee had a special story to tell and although the circumstances surrounding their loss of their respective limbs were different, their motivation was the same. They were all driven by the desire to be an example and offer encouragement to disabled and abled bodied persons everywhere. Their message is a simple yet powerful one: a reminder that obstacles in life such as disabilities may require a slower pace but that they do not spell the end of the pursuit of one’s passions and dreams in life.

Erin Brown, the first Bahamian female amputee to participate in a marathon stated when she first heard about Sunshine Insurance Marathon Bahamas she was driven to take part. A former athlete herself, this exuberant young lady was so determined that she thought about using a wheel chair or even crutches to run the marathon, but knew that the only possible way would with the use of a prosthetic leg; something that at the time she did not yet have. However, after sharing her story with a prophet, the prophet became inspired to donate one to her. Erin received it in August 2010 and she immediately commenced training for the marathon. Thoughts of composing a relay team of amputees filled her mind and this is where her outreach to other amputees began. “A personal journey” is how she describes the marathon as she began to encourage other amputees to reach beyond what some may have thought to be “the impossible.”

Jamal Nottage, another spirited member of the team, told us that after a motorcycle accident had left his body temporarily disabled, it was only by the grace of God and therapy that he was able to become an independent person again. Without any formal training himself, he was grateful for the opportunity and seized it by joining the team close to the date of the race. He saw it as an avenue for him to prove to himself and others that no matter what life’s challenges, with faith in one self and perseverance, anything is possible. Surely, there were times during the race where he felt like he would not make it, but the encouragement from the crowd of cheering spectators propelled him to cross the finish line and he did so exuding resolution, vigor and pride.

Amazingly, Tenneson Leslie, affectionately called “TC,” had just received his prosthetic leg the day before the race. He explained that he had some doubts because of his relative inexperience using the leg and no formal training; however, he was thrilled that he still managed to run 5 miles in 1 hour. This vivacious young man said that he was determined to hold the lead position when running his leg of the race and even though he had to stop to adjust the prosthetic, he did not give up his lead. Also a former athlete, he plans to continue to be an inspiration to persons everywhere competing and winning in future sporting competitions and he hopes to join the Bahamas’ Olympic team.

Perhaps in better shape than the rest, Aaron Sands told us that he walks every day and therefore was physically fit for the marathon. He was enthusiastic about the idea of an amputee relay team because it was an endeavor that he longed to achieve. He wished indeed that he could have gone even further, he said, and was disappointed when he realized his leg of the race was done. Sands will compete again in next year’s Sunshine Insurance Marathon Bahamas’ race weekend, this time in the half marathon. Bursting with vitality and strength, his optimism propels him to achieve his goals and he encourages others to do likewise.

“Mind over matter” is how the team described their overall experience in Sunshine Insurance Marathon Bahamas 2011 as they dared to be different. Enthusiastic, courageous and persevering and using their prosthetic legs , this passionate team of amputees was an inspiration to the admiring public as they successfully crossed the Marathon Bahamas’ finish line to receive their medals. Furthermore, these achievers describe their medals as the beginning of a historic legacy of breaking the status quo for all physically challenged persons in The Bahamas. They declared that their purpose is to leave a mark and they will not stop until that purpose is fulfilled, as they continue to be a motivation to all persons they come into contact with.