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Unlikely Team To Race In Southern Utah Half Marathon Saturday

Elsha Stocksetch
Elsha Stocksetch and one of her partners cross the finish line. She has muscular dystrophy, preventing her from running or walking.

Saturday morning, runners of the Southern Utah half marathon will cover the Virgin River Trail as hundreds of people rush by, clothed in neon and black, feet slapping the pavement, and numbers pinned to their backs. It's a typical race- with less than typical contestants.

In the past three years Elsha Stocksetch has crossed the finish line in 31 races, the most recent being a marathon just last weekend. Her next race is Saturday, along with friend Walter Brown.

“Elsha's amazing. You know she, has overcome obstacles like I have, where we shouldn't be alive, she's done it,” Brown said.

Brown will be Stocksetch’s partner in the race- because instead of pounding the pavement in the latest neon shoe, Stocksetch will be treading the course in a three-wheeled jogging stroller, Walter behind her, every inch of the 13-mile course.

"It started out kind of as a joke. My friend put on Facebook that they were getting a team together for Ragnar. And since I can't walk or run, I put on and said, 'I want to join, LOL.' Just to see what they would say," Stocksetch said.

Credit Southern Utah Half Marathon
Elsha and Walter race in the Southern Utah Half Marathon. The two reached a time of 1:24:15.

Stocksetch has muscular dystrophy, a group of genetic diseases where muscle fibers are incredibly fragile. Her goals, however, are quite the opposite.

“She has a goal that she told me, to get into Boston. For a runner to be able to get into Boston is a great feat. The pusher of Elsha has to be able to push her through an entire marathon at a goal time that they are running Boston in,” Brown said.

After her friends insisted on pushing Stocksetch through the Ragnar race, she continued racing. This weekend’s race won’t qualify Stocksetch for the Boston Marathon, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a goal for the race.

“This will be the first time I've pushed Elsha. I know she wants a personal record in a half marathon. I've been running for a lot of years, and so this is going to be a challenge for me this weekend to help her get her personal record,” Brown said.

Brown began running in the early ‘80s, and continued racing until 1993, when he stopped because of an accident.

“On Christmas Eve, I hit black ice and went off the road, and then a drunk driver came around and hit my car, and then my car hit me and pinned me into the guardrail. It crushed my pelvis in 23 places, hemorrhaged 2 knees, had blown discs, and I was told I would never walk again. I just ruled out the doctor's synopsis of my life,” he said.

For the next few months, Brown worked with a physical therapist, walking in a pool and having his legs shocked for an hour every day. He recovered his ability to walk and bike, but he didn’t run for 10 years. His first race after his accident was in 2003, and in 2010, he ran faster than he ever had before—2:31 in a St. George Marathon, and 1: 08 in a half marathon two years later.

He says now, he wants to give back, and helping Stocksetch with her running is right online with that. Stocksetch is taking this weekend off from qualifying for her goal, but the Boston Marathon is still where she is aiming, and Brown says he hopes to help her with that.

muscular dystrophy, elsha stocksetch
Credit Elsha Stocksetch
Elsha Stocksetch and a partner race together.

“And I only missed qualifying for Boston by one second,” she said, laughing. “My friend felt bad, and I was like, 'hey, don't worry about it. I'm just so excited I even did the marathon, and we can always try again, it's not going to be my only chance.”

Stocksetch says she’s looking forward to her first time competing with Brown. 

“I'm so excited to run with Walter, because I've read his story about what happened to him and I think we both have overcome a lot of different things and people said that we couldn't do what we dreamed about, but we're both living our dreams,” she said.

But she says she wants one thing most of all from this race.

“Hopefully we can just inspire the people, you know, to don't quit, just keep going and don't stop dreaming.”

Keep up with Elsha on Facebook.