Paraplegic Finishes Cove To Clover Race Using “Arm Cycle,” Beats 319 Others

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by Scott Schaefer

Keegan Reilly, 29, finished ahead of 319 other racers in last Sunday’s Cove to Clover 5k in Burien.

No big deal really, in a 5k race of 650 finishers…right?


Reilly also happens to be a paraplegic, and he used a rented “arm cycle” to pedal his way to a 37:19 finish time in Sunday’s 5k, successfully making the steep climb up Snake Hill like he has so many other obstacles in his life.

If you ran or walked the course, you know how tough it was to make it up and over the hill affectionately called “The Snake.”

Now imagine using just your arms to pedal up that hill.

Reilly lost the use of his lower body after receiving a major spinal cord injury in a car crash, but he hasn’t let that stop him. According to his uncle, who also happens to be Race Organizer John Nelson, Keegan made the very first arm-powered ascent of Colorado’s Mt. Elbert, which also happens to be the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, at 14,443 feet (32 feet higher than our own Mt. Rainier).

In addition, Reilly has also climbed Japan’s Mt. Fuji (12,388 ft.) as well as Mt. Shasta in California (14,179 ft.) using arm-climbing devices that were consulted and commissioned by his uncle, who says he did “a redesign” of one of One-Off Titanium’s unique arm powered off-road 3-wheelers.

“The result was a 4-wheeled hand-cycle designed specifically for ascending steep and rough terrain,” Nelson said.

The BBC did a story on Keegan’s ascent of Fuji (read it here), which received international attention because the police tried to stop the expedition at base camp. Nelson adds:

“We waited them out until the press arrive,” Nelson said. “After a couple days camping outside their door, they relented and grudgingly allowed the expedition to continue. Having a person be the final obstacle to overcoming Fuji just seemed downright silly.”

Reilly’s Shasta climb was with three other disabled climbers, including Pete Reike, who made the first arm-powered ascent of Mt. Rainier (read that story here).

“Each new person pushing the limits of the last,” Nelson said. “It’s like mountaineering being invented all over again.”

Most recently, Chris Waddell successfully summitted Kilimanjaro using a model of the 4-wheeler he based on Keegan’s machine (link here).

Nelson says that Reilly came all the way from Colorado just to take part in Sunday’s race.

Here are some pics of this brave and amazingly strong man (both physically and mentally) in action:

Keegan Reilly relaxes in his wheelchair prior to Sunday's race.

Reilly gets used to his "arm cycle" in the parking lot near the start of the course. He rented it from "Outdoors for All" in Seattle.

Reilly poses with his Uncle John Nelson, who organized the race.

If you thought running up Snake Hill was tough, imagine doing it like this, using just your arms.

Reilly cruised into the finish line in 331st place.

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