*Photos from Eye for Detail Photography
Rose O’Neill has been with Run The Edge since we launched our first Run The Year challenge back in 2015. That’s 8 years! For those of you who participate in Run The Year, you may have seen her in the Run The Year Facebook page posting uplifting messages and sharing her journey running with a prosthetic leg. Rose is inspiring, and her energy is infectious! Recently, she was the recipient of an ElliptiGO 8C and Stationary trainer from one of our partners, ElliptiGO! As a trusted partner of Run The Edge, ElliptiGO’s Chief Enthusiast Bryce Whiting actively follows our participants and happened upon a post Rose shared in the group that got him thinking. What transpired is nothing short of heartwarming and an example of what the Run The Year community and the partners we work with are all about.
We had the opportunity to chat with Rose and Bryce about Run The Year, the impact of the ElliptiGO grant, and much more. Read on as we share Rose’s story of resilience and perseverance and ElliptiGO’s generosity and support with you.
TW: discussion of domestic violence and physical injuries
Let’s start off by telling us a little about yourself!
I’m Rose, and I’m from BC, Canada! I’m a self-taught artist, focusing on pottery and stained glass. I’m also a dog fanatic. I’ll very rarely say no to an animal in need; I keep dogs around for companionship and protection. Over the years, I’ve had so many dogs come through this home and I even foster a lot until other families adopt them.
Can you tell me about ElliptiGO?
Of course! ElliptiGO was founded by two of my good friends, Bryan Pate and Brent Teal back in 2005. Bryan, a former Marine and Ironman triathlete was bone on bone in one knee and lost the ability to run for exercise. Despite owning a couple of really nice bikes, he struggled with the discomforts of traditional cycling and how long it took to get a good workout. While he enjoyed the indoor elliptical experience, he hated being stuck inside. He went online one day, looking for a low-impact, outdoor running device, and was shocked it didn’t exist. He actually called me and asked if I still kept in touch with Brent, who was a mechanical engineer and an accomplished ultramarathoner and Ironman Triathlete. I did and put them back in touch. They had their coffee meeting, which of course included drawing an elliptical bike on a napkin and soon thereafter, Brent started working on the first prototype. I wound up joining them in this crazy adventure in July of 2009 and 7-months later in February 2020, we launched the world's first commercially available elliptical bike. Since then, our small and dedicated team has delivered nearly 40,000 ElliptiGO bikes to customers around the world. We like to say that ElliptiGO bikes combine the best of running, cycling, and the indoor elliptical to deliver the best low-impact, full-body workout outside. And they are super versatile because, in addition to being able to ride outside, you can attach an ElliptiGO bike to our Fluid 365 Stationary trainer and use it indoors as desired. But the word we hear most often to describe riding an ElliptiGO is “fun” which we feel is the magic ingredient that leads people to ride their bikes way more often than ever would have expected. Our customers are primarily current and former runners looking for the closest thing to running (but without the impact), fitness enthusiasts looking for a great workout outside or cyclists with back, neck, or seat issues. Hundreds of elite runners use ElliptiGOs and more than 350 Universities and High Schools have integrated them into their running programs. Fitness icons Laird Hamilton & Gabby Reece have been huge ElliptiGO fans for years and recently, NY Times Best-selling Author (and huge runner) Malcolm Gladwell shared his love for riding his ElliptiGO bike. But honestly, it’s the tens of thousands of “regular” customers and their inspiring stories of how ElliptiGO has positively impacted their lives that keep our small team going and working hard.
What are your favorite things about the RTE community?
I’ve been participating in the challenges since the start, and people are genuinely happy that others are succeeding. And there’s no shame in asking a question. People will have more knowledge than you and be able to help. With so many issues going on in the world right now, the solidarity that this group has, it’s such a beautiful thing for everyone that is in it. It’s so amazing to have this support - you can do anything with the right support. Most people don’t even know how amazing they are as individuals and how much of an impact they can have on others. I try to make sure they know I appreciate them, and that they know they are beautiful. You can forget to tell the people you love that you appreciate them, so I try to make habit of telling them.
So let’s dive in a little deeper. You were approved for the CAF grant* for an ElliptiGO 8C and stationary trainer. Can you tell us how you received that grant?
*CAF is the Challenged Athletes Foundation and they raise funds and give grants to individuals with physical challenges to allow people to keep competing and exercising.
I was so surprised to get the grant, it was a big thanks to Run The Year. Bryce saw a post about my story in the RTY Facebook group, and RTE connected us; but I’ll let Bryce get into more of that side. I’ll start from the beginning of my own story - I’ve been with RTY since the start, but I lost my leg in 2019 as a result of a domestic violence incident. I left my now ex-husband and he didn’t like that, which didn’t end well for me. I had to have emergency surgery and they told me I’d never walk again. I was in the hospital for months and months and eventually walked out of the hospital. That was an amazing feeling. I didn’t lose the leg at that point, but I got a wound on my heel that just wouldn’t heal because I had sustained such bad nerve damage from being hit by the pickup truck my ex was driving and being left for dead. I fought for four years to save my leg, but it kept getting worse and worse. Eventually, I had an open wound to the bone, multiple surgeries, IVs in the house, and four bone infections that you wouldn't necessarily see together. I had to make a decision. I was so tired - physically and mentally - and I told my surgeon to cut my leg off. I needed my life back. At that point, the main concern was making sure my leg would heal after the amputation, or else they’d have to amputate more. Either the four bone infections were going to kill me because the antibiotics weren’t working or the fact of my leg not healing was going to kill me. I had to make a choice. At that point, it had been four years since getting out of the hospital. I had already relearned to walk, but then I couldn’t walk again because of the wound. One of the things that kept me going was Run The Year. Even though I couldn’t walk, I was determined to get my miles in, even if I had to do them in my wheelchair or on my crutches. I was determined to do something every single day. The mindset of being a long-distance runner previously helped me. Throughout all of it, it was incredibly helpful to connect with people who didn’t look at my amputation as a hindrance. I’ve been met with negativity and been told I’m not a runner, but I am a runner - I said I’m a runner and I’m running, so that makes me a runner.
Can you tell us about how you got connected with Rose and about the ElliptiGO 8C and stationary trainer she received?
Adam Goucher (RTE Founder) was an early adopter of ElliptiGO so that’s how we got connected with RTE early on. In 2020, we partnered with another company, Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which raises funds and gives grants for adaptive sports equipment to help people continue to compete and exercise; over the past 27 years, they have given over 30,000 grants to individuals with permanent physical disabilities worldwide. As part of this partnership, we donated 20% of ElliptiGO Bike sales for the month of November, with the goal of $70,000 in the form of bikes and Fluid 365 Stationary Trainers. Numerous amputees have benefited from the ElliptiGO, and when I saw Rose’s post in the Facebook group talking about her own run streak and how impactful the RTY program was for her to keep her motivated and inspired to keep going, it touched me. Her perseverance and positive attitude were inspiring to me and I immediately thought, I should let her know about our partnership with CAF and encourage her to apply for a grant. I reached out to Briana at RTE, who put me in touch with Rose. We connected, and she shared more about her incredible story - so challenging and so inspiring. I got Rose connected to CAF, her grant request was approved and we shipped her one of the elliptical bikes, the ElliptiGO 8C, and our Fluid 365 Stationary Trainers. The ElliptiGO 8C is our most popular model, with eight gears, and it’s used by both elite athletes and weekend warriors. ElliptiGO is in over 350 Universities and high schools and 90% have an 8C. If you’re looking for the model that’s the best combination of price and performance, the 8C is it. As mentioned, Rose also received one of our stationary Fluid 365 trainers as part of the grant. This will allow Rose to use her 8C indoors, on the patio, or wherever she wants to set it up. The trainer takes 2, maybe 3 minutes to set up, and is definitely a great option when the weather is too bad outside or if someone doesn’t want to ride in the dark.
You’ve been participating in the RTE challenges for so long - how do you typically complete them?
Usually by running or hiking, but it depends on how my leg is doing. So anyway I can on two feet! I truly believe if you’re moving, you’re moving and that’s something to be celebrated. No one has the right to police another’s movement. When I started my journey, prior to RTY I didn’t run - I wobbled. I was massively overweight, I was in an abusive relationship, and I ate my feelings. When I decided to start my journey, that’s when I chose me. I was told I wasn’t going to be taken seriously, I’m not good enough. I had people laugh at me because I was obese. But I didn’t stop. He tried to sabotage my journey. He’d cut the soles off of my shoes so I couldn't walk. We lived in the middle of nowhere, so it was rocky. I would walk with holes in my shoes with cardboard on the soles. He would tell me I was fat and useless. In the first half mountain marathon I did, I was the last one off of the course. That was the best marathon of my life. I almost died. It took me four and a half hours. The next year, it took me three hours and twenty-seven minutes. Then two hours and fifteen minutes. Then two hours, fourteen minutes, and thirty-seven seconds. And that’s when he tried to kill me. I had gotten so strong mentally and physically and there was nothing that was stopping me. He was powerless. You never know what somebody else is going through, so you don’t have the right to say what’s good enough and what is not. If that’s all they can do, that’s good enough. Some days, I’d cry myself to sleep and didn’t think I could do it. But then I’d do it. But the cost I paid was so high. You don’t have the right to tell someone that what they’re doing isn't good enough - every mile is good enough, and however they complete those miles is good enough. At least they’re trying. They don’t need extra pressure. Live your life and let other people live theirs. Don’t be that extra burden or brick that they feel like they can’t talk to someone or reach out. Don’t be that person. Be the person that sees other people and says hey I see you out there and it’s amazing. Give them a compliment. They need it more than you know.
After everything you’ve been through, how do you stay motivated to stay on your fitness journey to keep moving?
I’ve had to relearn to walk twice and I’ve had to relearn how to run. That was actually a tremendous gift in a lot of ways - there’s been so much that I have opened my eyes to. So I gave myself 24 hours to grieve the loss of my leg, and then I told myself I’m moving on from life, ‘cause I could’ve been dead. My belief is that it can always be worse. I have so much to live for. I think we need to be grateful for the challenges - not that I ever want anyone to go through what I went through, but I don’t see myself as missing out on things because I’m missing my leg. Missing my leg doesn’t define me. A lot of things that happen in our life are out of our control, but we can control our thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions. Sometimes, it’s important to just be still and look at what we have, appreciate what we have, and be thrilled with what we have. I have health problems daily now that I never faced previously. Not only am I missing the lower part of my leg, but I now as a direct result have fibromyalgia, pain throughout my whole body, and severe nerve damage. I could’ve given up, but I’m not going to give up on myself. From people telling me I’m not a runner to people telling me I shouldn’t be seen without my leg on… you have the power to determine how you look at life, and sometimes you have to look at people and say that’s not a ‘me’ problem, that’s a ‘you’ issue. There’s a silver lining in everything that happens. Yes, I lost my leg through violence, but I’ve gained so much more. I didn’t necessarily want to lose my leg to gain that, but I wouldn’t have gained what I have without losing my leg. I think we have to refocus on the positive, and it’s not easy. Not every day is positive, but I truly believe I am perfect exactly how I am. There’s nothing wrong with being different and I think we need to encourage that. I think when we have pain, physical, mental, or emotional, it nourishes courage. And we have to struggle to practice being brave. You have that power over how you chose to start your day. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to struggle, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be in pain, but it does mean you have chosen your humanity and embraced it. I think we have to look back to see how far we’ve come but at the same time, have a determined focus on where we’re going.
There’s also strength in surrounding yourself with people with a similar mindset. I live out on a farm in a very small town. I’m one of the only people with an amputation. People look, and they stare, and that’s okay. It brings about awareness. People are afraid of what they don’t know. My connection with people is through my online running community for the most part because when I tried to join the only running community in my town, I was informed I wasn’t a runner. I felt bad for their point of view, and I’m not going to waste my time and energy changing their limited scope. Life is so worth living and there’s so much to be grateful for. There’s so much beauty in life. My mountains have been able to heal me in ways my doctors can’t, both emotionally and mentally. Being able to get out into the mountains again is such a healing experience for me and my sense of achievement and self. Bottom line: every once in a while, something will happen in life, and you can always shape your perspective. It does take work, and you do have to show up for yourself - you have to believe in yourself. I was in a place where nobody believed in me except me. I’ve been shaken, but I’ve never given up. And I want people to know - when it comes to things like abuse, you need to get the help, you have to find the help. You need to find out how to leave safely. I didn't know. I didn’t have the help to leave safely. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Shame isn’t yours to carry. If you’re in an abusive situation of any kind, the shame isn’t yours to carry. There are people that can help you, you just have to be brave enough to ask and get that help.
How has the ElliptiGO 8C and Stationary trainer impacted you and your fitness journey?
The ElliptiGO is definitely a different feel, but I love it! With the prosthetic, I was worried about it pushing my leg forward, but there are no issues there! It’s so comfortable I could ride it for hours! I can go get my mail which is 20 km away and come all the way back home with it! I am so so grateful. I cannot express what it means. You never think anyone is really watching or knowing about your story. For me, it’s humbling because I do have to ask people or companies for help. It’s very expensive not only to be an amputee but to also walk as an amputee. To have something like this, I can’t even explain. I literally cried when Bryce contacted me. I was so happy because it was such a tremendous weight off my shoulders. It’s something I would never ever be able to afford for my own recovery on my own. To break it down, you’re looking at over 50k to pay for a leg, medical treatment, etc for the first year alone. It seems insurmountable. I try to be eloquent when I write thank you letters, but I just cannot express my thanks enough. This is going to be such a huge pivotal piece in my training and recovery. I’m not getting any younger, and I need to ensure I can run and do my ultras. I need to take care of myself so I don’t injure my limb and this piece is going to do all of that and more.
How does this fit into your mission, and have you done anything like this before?
Overall, it’s really important for us to partner with brands that keep people moving. Activity is so important for your mental health, especially when so many things can make you mentally fatigued. So many people say ElliptiGO has impacted their life for the better, and that’s personally what keeps me going. Recently, we just kicked off a collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer that I am super excited about. As part of the collaboration, we’ve introduced a limited-edition Stand Up To Cancer branded 11R and RSUB, with 20% of the purchase price being donated to SU2C. In addition, we’re hosting a virtual ride on September 17th and 18th to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer, where people can ride however far they want on whatever bike they want. To participate, there’s a suggested $25 donated and a way to share with your friends and family. And to add, if you’re just learning about ElliptiGO or have always wanted to try one, just go to our test ride page and sign-up to test one out!
Where do you see yourself next on your fitness journey/where would you like to be in the future?
My goal is to go get my mail - it’s 20 km just one way! I also just attempted my first ultra. I didn’t reach my goal, but I made 30 km out of the 50, knowing full well that I could easily reach the 50. My prosthetic leg wasn’t fitting, and when it twisted, the whole bottom of my stump turned into a blister. I stumbled, half crawled to where we started, and then started to go around again. I was so proud of myself - that was the longest I’ve ever done. I knew I could physically and mentally do the 50 with ease. It’s a process to get your leg to where you want it to be. The leg I have is not in the definitive (or final) leg. That’s not a bad thing, it just means I can’t do 50 right now. I think we have to celebrate our success and also our “failures.” I view them as a stepping stone. It’s all perspective. People get so caught up in the negative, but I see the positive. I was the only amputee in the race, and the other athletes there were so amazing. Every time I went by, everyone was encouraging me. They could see how much it meant to me and they could see how hard I was trying. It was an amazing community and an amazing mindset. There’s always a brighter day ahead; you just have to hold on to hope.
Do you have any advice for folks trying to overcome challenges or obstacles in their lives? Where did you find the strength?
You’ll encounter times where people say you can’t do something and it’ll just hit you at that moment and it’s hard to deflect that off, but it says more about them than you. Out of everything that’s happened throughout my life, there’s been one comment that has stuck with me. My son and I were going into a restaurant and I was in shorts. Someone turned to me and said I shouldn't be seen in public with my leg out like that. I said that says more about her than me. A lot of people have that expectation of me failing, and at the end of the day, that’s their expectation and that’s fine. I am careful with who I surround myself with because you can do anything with the right support. There is nothing that is impossible as long as you dare to believe in yourself. Perspective and perseverance will get you there every time. You don’t want to look back and regret things you haven’t done. You want to be able to say I did this and I did that. One day I was running minding my own business, then the next, I was fighting for my life. And even though it feels like we’re so alone sometimes, there's always someone going through something similar; you’re never as alone as you may feel. I always say that while I used to dance in the light with 2 legs, I appreciate the ability to dance in the dark with one leg now. Perspective is everything. If you can change your mindset, you can change your life and change your world. Also, never lose your sense of humor. Life is too short to be miserable. I’d rather be out running.
Earlier this month, Rose just finished a mountain ultra in just over five hours and already wants to do it again. Even with a broken prosthetic, she was determined to cross the finish line! You can follow along with Rose’s Run The Year journey in the Run The Year Facebook group if you’re a participant! And don’t forget to check out ElliptiGO for test rides near you, to take some impact off of your legs or just support in your overall training.