Para-athlete rolls with the Terry Fox Run crowd

Stefanie Barber says inclusivity a major draw at last Sunday’s run

Stefanie Barber gets ready to compete in the Terry Fox Run at Mile Zero on Sunday. Barber used the race to train for the Summer Paralympics in 2016.

Stefanie Barber gets ready to compete in the Terry Fox Run at Mile Zero on Sunday. Barber used the race to train for the Summer Paralympics in 2016.

Stefanie Barber didn’t think she’d be back to racing at this time last year.

In 2010, the 27-year-old with spina bifida underwent five surgeries. Memories of that time, and the chronic pain, leave her fighting back tears, but it also highlights the importance of competitive sport in her life.

The surgeries, she said, were touch and go. “Not in terms of survival, but in terms of quality of life.”

At stake was her place on Team B.C. Para-Athletics.

She credits her regimen of training for her speedy recovery.

People underestimate what exercise can do for you, she said. “Training really mentally puts you in a better place. When I train, nothing else matters. It’s just me and the road and it takes away everything that may be bothering you.”

On Sunday, Barber was the only registrant in the Terry Fox Run to race in a wheelchair.

Racing a route on wheels amid a sea of runners is always a great experience for Barber.

For one thing, she’s faster than those of foot. Barber finished the race in 20 minutes. And rather than feeling self-conscious about her difference, Barber loves the exposure.

“People with disabilities can get out and be involved with community events, and feel like they belong,” she said. “It really is an eye opener for kids. They can see the potential of everybody.”

It’s a message Terry Fox himself brought to a generation of Canadians by attempting to run across the country despite having lost a leg to cancer. While Fox died before Barber was born, his legacy reached her indirectly.

“Rick Hansen was inspired by Terry Fox to do his Man in Motion World Tour and I’m inspired by Rick Hansen,” she said.

Barber dreams of making Team Canada for the 2016 Summer Paralympics.

“Terry always talked about hope and I live on hope,” she said. “That’s gotten me through some pretty tough times.”

This year, the Victoria Terry Fox Run attracted 850 runners and volunteers, and raised  $27,000, plus $12,600 through the coinciding Great Canadian Hair-do event.