With a “chariot” of unknown endurance, Lander University alumni Cameron Dorn and Mike Hudson are embarking on a journey few would undertake.
But then, most people have never experienced the adventurous life of an extreme triathalete such as Dorn, or the dedication of a disabled veteran of the U.S. Marines such as Hudson.
Participating in the Marine Corps marathon was always a “bucket list” dream for Hudson, of Greer, until a diving accident left him paralyzed. Dorn has competed in the Boston Marathon on nine occasions.
The disabled veteran asked his friend, Dorn, to run the marathon for him, but Dorn’s suggestion was “let’s do this together.”
The men believe that their combined skill, grit, determination and faith can propel them across the finish line when they compete October 29 in the 48th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
The duo’s plan is for Dorn to push Hudson in a customized wheelchair along a 26.2-mile course that runs through the nation’s capital – past many recognizable landmarks – and ends at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va.
While the idea seems good on paper, “there’s nothing normal about a plan that puts paralysis, wheelchair and a marathon together,” Hudson said.
Yet, the friends will not be discouraged by the challenge. “Mike and I connected in 2014 … we’ve always stayed close,” said Dorn, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business with a marketing emphasis from Lander in 2010. “He has lived a full life. He’s one of those inspiring people.”
Hudson, a 2004 graduate of Lander with a bachelor’s degree in history, is an advocate for people with disabilities. As the founder of the nonprofit organization, Rediscovering Outdoor Activities (R.O.A.R.), Hudson encourages people in wheelchairs, to “get out of their head, out of their home, and find fun.”
Dorn has built a career on helping others achieve their goals. Founder of The Suitcase of Courage LLC, Dorn consults with companies across the country to develop custom, corporate wellness programs. An experienced runner who also has three Guinness world records, Dorn holds U.S. national championship titles in duathlon and triathlon events. His international treks to participate in daring adventures have created legendary stories among all who know him.
“I just get myself into things easily,” said Dorn, who grew up in Waterloo and recently purchased a home in Port Angeles, Washington.
Preparations have been intense since the pair began plans for the race. Hudson realized he needed a special wheelchair for the rigorous requirements of the race. He turned to Ben Huntzinger of Spartan Wheel Chariots in Thomasville, Ga., for help. A paraplegic outdoorsman, Huntzinger is known for building one-of-a-kind, all-terrain wheelchairs for clients.
Huntzinger designed a wheelchair specifically for Hudson’s use. “We have a chariot ready to go for this race,” Hudson said. “It hasn’t been tested in a race like this, but we can do this. We are our own dogsled team.”
Factoring the weight of Hudson and the wheelchair, Dorn estimates he will be pushing about 250 pounds along the race course. The hills, for which Washington, D.C. is known, could present a challenge on the way up. “It will be grueling,” Hudson said, “but we can pick up speed going downhill.”
In preparation for the grueling marathon, Dorn has been pushing loaded shopping carts and sleds as practice. “I’ve run dozens of marathons before. I know what I can handle. My goal is to make sure that Mike has a great time … and to take care of him,” said Dorn, who will have two pairs of running shoes at the race to ensure his feet can handle the distance.
The goal, both men said, “is to keep the rollovers to a minimum.”
And, Dorn said, “We want to finish in a respectable time. We won’t finish first, but we’ll get across the finish line. We’re ready to be rocking and rolling.”