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Once facing paralysis, Rochelle Ann Rosa bounces back with second Brooklyn Half Marathon

Three years ago, doctors told Rochelle Ann Rosa to not expect to walk again after bleeding in her stomach left her paralyzed. On May 19, 68-year-old Rosa will run her second Brooklyn Half Marathon.

“I really lived day by day, moment by moment,” Rosa recalled. “I literally thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be paralyzed the rest of my life.”

The paralysis was the second seemingly unconquerable hurdle Rosa has faced in the last decade. On a crisp March morning some 9 years ago, at a corner in Bayside, a distracted cabdriver smashed into Rosa as she was crossing the street, sending her flying “like a bowling pin,” she remembers.

“Your instinct is to turn and grab the hood of the car like you’re Superman,” she said. “When I tried to stand up I knew I was hurt.”

Despite her determination to avoid the hospital and enjoy her impending vacation, she was in surgery 10 days later. As it turns out, her meniscus was “totally shredded,” her tibia “split wide open,” and both shins suffered hairline fractures.

She spent the next two years in rehabilitation so that she could walk without a cane. Eventually, she did and was soon bit by “the bug” to run. Four years ago, she joined a running group and decided the following year she would run her first New York Road Runners race.

“I was so excited,” she said. “I woke up the next day thinking that (I had) a stomach virus or a case of food poisoning.”

Three hours later, she was delirious and then lost consciousness. After being transported to the hospital, she spent hours in ICU until she was stable enough for surgery. Surgeons stapled her stomach to stop the bleeding and, eventually, moved her to a room for recovery.

“When I went to stand up to go the bathroom and walk, I collapsed,” Rosa said. “The blood oxygen levels in my brain got so messed up that I was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down for a little over six months.”

What ensued were three weeks in a Suffolk County hospital, three weeks in a rehab center — “which was the worst experience of my life” — then two months at home in a cast. But, just as after the car accident in Queens, Rosa resolved to walk again. She sought the help of physical therapist Manson Wong, who soon was making twice-weekly visits to her Lower East Side home.

 After only three weeks, Rosa was walking to the bathroom, and three weeks later she was walking around the apartment with the walker.

“It’s weird, it should have been a long, long, long process of years and years, when you take into account where she came from, where she needed help sitting,” Wong said. “I can’t explain to you how sick she was. She could have been dead.”

Yet, six months later, she was running. Wong recalled after finishing a race last year seeing someone run by who looked oddly like Rosa.

“I saw her going by and I wasn’t sure if it was her or not, I was shocked,” he said, adding: “For her to go on and finish a marathon is just insane.” Last year, Rosa completed the New York City Marathon — in a tutu.

(05/15/2019) ⚡AMP
by Colter Hettich
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Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon

Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon

The Popular Brooklyn Half (previously Airbnb), the largest half-marathon in the country, is an iconic 13.1-mile journey through the amazing borough of Brooklyn. The race starts near the Brooklyn Museum and ends with a finish like no other on the Coney Island boardwalk. This half marathon takes runners on a brand-new course through Grand Army Plaza, around Prospect Park, down...

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After a breakup, Braulio Vazquez lost 50 Pounds and Got into Marathon Shape and is now set to run the Brooklyn Half Marathon

When Braulio Vazquez moved to New York City three years ago, he knew almost no one. No friends. No acquaintances outside work colleagues. No one except his partner. And his partner was controlling. He would check in with Vazquez and monitor his movements.

As a result, Vazquez stopped going out—he stopped running, cooking, and doing any of his old hobbies. He would eat fast food from Popeyes, go straight home after work, and sit in the dark on his days off.

Vazquez was 200 pounds, trapped, and feeling miserable. Last year, however, Vazquez initiated a change: He sought mental council, dropped over 50 pounds, and got into marathon shape.

The change happened at dinner. It began with a breakup. “As soon as he sat down, I told him I couldn’t do this anymore and that nothing would change my mind,” Vazquez says. His partner had been demeaning, shaming Vazquez for buying running shoes and accusing him of infidelity. But that night, Vazquez ended it, and soon after, he moved in with a friend.

When the friend briefly left town, Vazquez, alone with his thoughts, began to panic. He felt depressed and lonely. He was free of his relationship, but still in an unfamiliar city and without a support group of friends. He started thinking about ways to kill himself. He immediately called the National Suicide Hotline.

Operators followed up with Vazquez every day afterward, checking in on him. His employer then helped him into therapy, one of the scariest moments for Vazquez.

At the same time, he began running. He’d wake up at 5:30am three times a week and run along the Hudson River. In therapy, Vazquez was challenged to consider why he’d left many of these hobbies behind. He was interested in running, but he was only now exercising. He loved to cook, but he always ate out. Vazquez's therapist suggested he surround himself with people who enjoyed doing those same things. One day, while running along the river, Vazquez passed a running group and joined. He fell in love with it.

He also fell back in love with cooking, limiting carbs and sweets. He replaced cravings with protein shakes and started cooking more grilled chicken and greens. He also began watching the time of day he was eating. The late, after-work Popeye trips became a thing of the past.

He downloaded apps like Ladder and subscribed to GNC’s Pro Box. He started supplementing his running with 30 minutes of morning gym work in order not to strain his joints. “Waking up every day, seeing people–life just got better,” says Vazquez. He continued therapy. He started going on dates. He got a promotion at work. And the pounds started coming off.

Vazquez is now down 54 pounds and preparing for the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon, which he'll run next week. Brooklyn was supposed to be his first official race, but Vazquez says others popped up that he couldn’t resist. He’s done three already this year and is signed up for a total of 14.

(05/11/2019) ⚡AMP
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Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon

Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon

The Popular Brooklyn Half (previously Airbnb), the largest half-marathon in the country, is an iconic 13.1-mile journey through the amazing borough of Brooklyn. The race starts near the Brooklyn Museum and ends with a finish like no other on the Coney Island boardwalk. This half marathon takes runners on a brand-new course through Grand Army Plaza, around Prospect Park, down...

more...
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The NYRR Brooklyn Half Sold out today in just over two hours

The New York Road Runners-organized half-marathon famously requires fast-acting registration as the race has sold out in minutes in recent years. In 2016, the Brooklyn Half sold out in 52 minutes. In 2017, it took exactly half that amount of time for the registration to close, a staggering 26 minutes. The official 2018 figure, per the NYRR, took two hours and 17 minutes for upwards of 27,500 runners to register for the May 19 half marathon. (01/31/2018) ⚡AMP
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