LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Physical disabilities can get you down or they can push you to live stronger. That's what inspired a team of two ladies to embark on the ultimate journey.
Separately, Karen White and Melissa Landry are two women with their own sets of obstacles. Melissa has cerebral palsy, a brain disorder that affects how her body moves. "It makes your muscles over-react and it makes it stiff and hard to move," says Melissa.
Living with physical limitations is something that Melissa has had to do all of her life. But it wasn't until 10 years ago that a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis set Karen on a similar path. "It took my body becoming numb to learn how numb to life I was," says Karen, "and all of a sudden it was like a big wake-up call."
Karen spent three years in a wheelchair before her wake-up call pushed her to a new limit in physical therapy. Eventually she walked again, jogged again, even competed in two marathons! But the crash that came along at the end of each race is where Melissa found a new purpose with her friend. "When I heard that Karen would collapse at the finish line," says Melissa, "I said, 'Karen, tell me when your next race is and I'll be at the finish line so you can lean on me.'"
That was the beginning of "Team Lean" a two-woman running team where Karen is the legs and Melissa is the wheels. The support Karen and Melissa offer each other is what fuels their success on and off the road. "You have to embrace all of your weaknesses and problem solve in training," says Karen, "then tweak ways to get things done and that just flows into the rest of your life."
GoRun co-founder and running coach Phyllis Aswell says Team Lean has inspired her to run whatever race life throws her way. "There's so many of us that are out there that are fully capable and we don't live to our fullest," she says, "but Karen and Melissa live to their fullest every day."
Each day is a new experience for this duo and a chance for them to soar beyond the disabilities that can weigh them down. "I didn't know I could be so free," says Melissa, "I'm still attached to the chair, but you don't feel that way in running - you feel so free."
This freedom in life is what Team Lean hopes will push others to overcome their own obstacles. "Everybody wants to have something to believe in," says Karen, "and when they find out that they really can believe in themselves, it's just a catchy, catchy motivation."
*The next race on Team Lean's agenda is a 10-K this Saturday, October 3rd. If you want to meet Karen and Melissa or dozens of other local runners, it's not too late to sign up for this weekend's Crazy Cajun 10-K and 5-K. Click here for registration information and to read more about Team Lean's inspiring journey.