At 11, she found her game. Reinertsen was at a local 10K race with her father and brother when she watched an athlete sprinting by with an artificial leg. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing, what I realized was possible," Reinertsen said. She went home and put that sneaker on, and taught herself how to run. Pretty soon, she had a coach and was winning medals for short-distance relays. By the time she was 16, she was competing in the Paralympics in Barcelona. She tripped at the gate and was so defeated that she went home and put her sneakers away for two years.
"I went through a long time not being comfortable in my skin," she said. By her second year of college at George Washington University, she realized she missed running and turned her sights to marathons. "Running taught me to see my body as whole," she said. The prize was running in the 1997 New York City Marathon. Her coach ran by her side hugging one of his student's extra legs. She got to the finish line 6.5 hours later.
As an athlete, Reinertsen found faith in where her body could go. The year of the marathon, she met a man without a leg who was heading out to Hawaii to do an Ironman competition. Reinertsen loved to watch the race on television, and it became an instant obsession. There were only two problems. While she had the running part of the race down, she had no idea how to bike and any swimming she had done was spent on her belly in the Long Island Sound as a kid.
But she was up for the challenge. She started with the bike, learning how to ride in her Brooklyn apartment. Swimming was more challenging. There was a swimming pool a few blocks from her house. But every day she would get off the subway and find people staring at a one-legged man begging on a subway platform. That strong image made it impossible for her to think about going to the pool, shedding her metal leg, and diving in. Instead, she would take a detour on the way home and cras
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