Paralyzed Skateboarder Wants to Ride in LA Marathon

Jesse Swalley is paralyzed in one leg and wants to ride a skateboard in the LA Marathon in March

Jesse Swalley has been training hard for the LA Marathon, going at least 5 miles a day.

He propels himself using his arms and hands with converted “shoves” -- half gloves, half shoes -- to protect his hands from the blistering streets of the northeast San Fernando Valley.

His mode of transportation? A skateboard.

Swalley is paralyzed in his left leg, but he’s not going to let that stop him from trying to ride his board in the LA Marathon in March.

“I expect to be in the Marathon,” he said. “I expect it’s gonna happen.”

Swalley, 51, of Sylmar, has an uphill battle.

“This is an unusual situation,” said Richard Traum, the president and founder of Achilles International, which helps athletes with disabilities and is working with Swalley. “Ultimately it’s the decision of the Los Angeles Marathon. It’s not our decision. The issue is ultimately safety.”


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Marathon officials said they are open to working with Achilles and Swalley to try to accommodate his participation, “as we do with other athletes, with equipment that meets our safety standards.”

Guidelines set by USA Track and Field say such events are limited to foot races, approved racing wheelchairs and "does not include other methods of wheeled transportation such as roller blades, bicycles, etc.,” Jason Greenwald, an LA Marathon spokesman, said in a statement.

But Swalley is undeterred.

He’ll continue to ride his board along the relatively flat Foothill Boulevard and practice working his cardio at a skatepark.

“I used to run a lot,” said Swalley, who was paralyzed in 1991 when he was stabbed trying to prevent two men from robbing another man at a restaurant in Carpinteria, Calif.

The knife cut his spinal cord, leaving him partially paralyzed.

He spent months in a wheelchair and eventually started using arm braces.

Now he gets around on a board.

His main sponsor is Green Earth Collective, but his biggest supporters are his 22-year-old daughter, his longtime girlfriend and local skaters.

He took up skateboarding on June 26, 2011 -- 20 years to the day he was stabbed.

He recently took part in the Guinness Book of World Record “World's Largest Skate Parade” in which nearly 500 people skated 2 miles around LA’s Venice High School. He did 22 miles on his skateboard in an all-skate marathon in San Diego last year.

He hopes that his push to get into his hometown Marathon will inspire others like him to be active.

“Maybe it’ll get other people to move around a little more,” he said. 

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