Londonderry paraplegic athlete prepares to race second Boston Marathon
LONDONDERRY - More than two-thirds of Tim Morris' body hasn't worked correctly for nearly a decade, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming an endurance athlete.
"I have some pretty lofty goals for myself, but you can achieve anything, you just got to put in the work," Morris said.
A New Hampshire native, Morris grew up in Windham.
Almost 10 years ago, he was in a serious, rollover car accident. He said it was the result of distracted driving, and his body paid the price.
"I broke nearly everything," he recalled having a broken back, neck, ribs, shoulder and hand. "My back is where I suffered a chest-level spinal cord injury."
After the accident, Morris spent three weeks in a medically-induced coma.
"I woke up from this coma and having been a personal trainer and physical education teacher, fitness and being active was my life, and now two-thirds of my body doesn't work correctly anymore," he said.
Morris spent four months recovering at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Massachusetts where he worked to recover physically and mentally.
"I realized I had to take ownership. I was the one that put myself in the situation by distracted driving," he said. "I'm the only one that can get myself out of this position."
The accident changed Morris' life, and it didn't just leave him paralyzed. The accident motivated him to accomplish things he'd always said he would, but had yet to follow through on.
"Laying [in the hospital] at night when everybody went home, I had the opportunity to think and think about my life and think about opportunities that I was wasting," Morris explained. "I wanted to do so many things prior to my injury, but I was just talking about them and talking about them, and [they were] always in the future and it just stayed that way."
One of those things was complete a Tough Mudder obstacle course race.
So, once he was well enough, he did, alongside dozens of his friends, families and biggest supporters.
One race, however, wasn't enough.
"I did that for a few years," Morris said. "I loved it, had great experiences, made great friendships, it just took a toll on me physically."
That's when he got involved with triathlon, races of varying lengths up to a half Ironman.
"Triathlon is a little bit more of a lifetime activity where it's just you against you. You're always trying to get faster."
Somewhere along the way, Morris made the decision to try his hand at the marathon, a race in which he'd push himself 26.2 miles in a three-wheeled race chair.
Morris is now training for his second Boston Marathon.
In 2016, Morris joined Spaulding Hospital's Boston Marathon race team. Out of the 27 contestants in the wheelchair field, he came in last.
"Being new to the sport of wheelchair racing, there was so much that I didn't know that I didn't know," he recalled, smiling.
Morris hopes this year is much different. His ultimate goal is to re-qualify for the 2018 marathon, meaning he complete the race this year in two hours or less. His secondary goal is to finish between two and two and a half hours.
Morris said he'll never forget what it felt like to race Boston for the first time.
"It's an experience that you have to live it once. You have to experience it. There's not a mile on the course where people aren't lined up, two [or] three deep to cheer you on."
He'll get to experience that again in four short weeks, again a part of the Spaulding Race for Rehab team.
"Spaulding, for obvious reasons, holds a place in my heart for the work that they're doing."
His oldest sister's also joining him this time, running for the Spaulding team. Morris said it's the first time they've shared a starting line in more than a decade.
"It's going to be very special," he said.
Together, the siblings hope to raise $12,000 for their team. All money raised by runners on the team will go toward research for people with degenerative conditions or people who have suffered traumatic injuries, just like Morris.
"[It's] to help people improve their quality of life," he said. "Any opportunity that I get to help out, my little part, I'll certainly jump at that."
Morris is still a personal and strength trainer, and he spends time working with other adaptive athletes. He also is expanding his athletic goals and hopes to complete a full Ironman triathlon -- that's a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a full 26.2 mile marathon -- in the near future.
"It's a hard journey, but it's a really fun one," Morris said.