Marathoner is `just slow'

Kelly Luckett, who lost a leg as child, isn't looking for sympathy


Hardship is a matter of perspective.

Just ask Kelly Luckett, a leg amputee who will be among the 7,000 marathoners and half-marathoners taking part in this morning's Baltimore Running Festival.

From Patterson Park to the point on 33rd Street where Memorial Stadium was once a landmark, they face a six-mile stretch that starts with a climb of more than 200 feet, then goes up and down a series of hills. Marathoners like Luckett get that from mile markers 16 to 22. It's hell on the hamstrings, but it won't faze her.

Luckett's training has been shot since Aug. 4, her 38th birthday, when a storm toppled a poplar tree and damaged a third of her house in Decatur, Ga. Workouts were already problematic since she lost her right leg in a riding lawn mower accident when she was 2.

She does not recall that horrific incident, just climbing trees, joining a Girl Scout troop and hiking around her childhood home in Louisville, Ky. Luckett married and moved to a suburb of Atlanta, where her husband, Brian, fit into a road-racing scene that revolves around the world's largest 10K.

Feeling left out of the Peachtree Road Race, Luckett joined the 55,000 in the 2003 throng. Self-conscious, the manager of an auto leasing agency began on a treadmill in the basement.

"I couldn't run 30 seconds," she said. "It felt clumsy. A month before Peachtree, Brian reminded me it wasn't going to be held indoors. Hopefully, I've become a little smoother. I probably still look ridiculous, but there are people with two legs who have a poor gait, too."

Condescension is the only reaction that offends her.

"The people who say, `Look at her, bless her heart,' I must look pitiful to them. But I'm not," Luckett said. "I'm fine. I'm just slow."

She covered the 2004 Country Music Marathon in 6 hours, 46 minutes, which got her to marathon nirvana. In Boston last April, four mobility-impaired runners used an early start. She was first across, in 6:27.

The sprinters in the Paralympics, the international competition that follows the Olympics, are outfitted with space age prosthetics. Luckett's has a customized urethane liner that cushions her skin against a weight-bearing socket, and a "Lo Rider" foot constructed of lightweight carbon.

Sponsored by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Luckett is a follower of Jeff Galloway's run-walk method. At one of his clinics, she befriended BethAnn Perkins, and together they form the "Three Feet Elite" team. Perkins, who lives in Michigan, had a business conference in Washington D.C., this week, so they registered for Baltimore.

It was added to their itinerary in early August, while the Luckett home was being repaired. That tree crashed through the ceiling and into a bedroom where she was resting.

"If it wasn't for the marathon," Luckett said, "I'd be a basket case right now."

Baltimore Running Festival

Today, Camden Yards. Marathon and team relay start at 8 a.m.; half-marathon at 9:45. TV: Ch. 11.

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