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Q&A With Team Rusty - Inspirational Wheelchair Running Duo

by Alexandra Parren
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Team Rusty Cerebral Palsy Running Racing Disability Sports

Sundried had the pleasure of chatting to James Anderson and his cousin Rusty, who was born with cerebral palsy. Together they are a motivational and inspirational duo who set out to spread the message of inclusion and positivity in the running community.

Please tell us about Team Rusty- who you are and what your journey is about.

Team Rusty is a duo wheelchair racing team. I push the chair and my cousin Rusty is the motivational engine up front. He's the one that makes us go! Rusty was born with cerebral palsy. He is unable to walk or talk and has limited use of his arms but he has a big personality and even bigger heart.

We come from a huge sports family and Rusty is the biggest fan of us all. He truly has the heart and competitive spirit of an athlete. This is a great way for us to unite and compete together as a team. Our journey is about spreading a positive message of inclusion and positivity.

How did you first start Team Rusty?

My family had heard of the iconic father and son racing duo Team Hoyt long before we started racing but for some reason we had never put 2 and 2 together that we could do the same type of duo wheelchair racing that they have pioneered. We looked into it online and saw that you can sign up for races and they would let you borrow a racing chair. So just before cross country season my senior year of college we reached out to team Hoyt and they were gracious enough to let us borrow a chair. We had a great race and quickly fell in love with the idea. We had an absolute blast! The following summer we raced every other weekend and ran our first marathon that fall. We raised money to buy our own chair and haven't looked back since.

Team Rusty Running Wheelchair Racing

Have you always been into running? Where did your passion start?

I started running my freshman year of high school. I loved the sport. The work it takes to improve, tracking your progress, and the team element of cross country and track. After high school, I ran at the university of New Hampshire on their cross country and track team for 4 years, which was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I loved my teammates and coaches and honestly couldn't have asked for a better 4 years.  Since then, I have raced with Rusty and have coached spring track at my old high school. Running is a central facet of my life and a huge passion that I share with Rusty.

What has been your favourite race to date and why?

Awesome question and a difficult one to answer. There are so many awesome races to choose from. We have really fallen in love with the marathon. It's a great challenge and takes a big team effort. Our first major marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC last fall. The atmosphere was incredible, huge crowds and such amazing tradition. There were also 90 duo teams that raced, it truly is "the people's marathon" .We achieved a big PB (3:27) and we can't wait to go back this October and race for a Boston qualifier.

How do you find it training together? Are there some days when one of you needs to motivate the other?

Rusty lives a few hours away from me so we don't get to train together too often. We race together about every other weekend throughout the summer and autumn, which really helps build our fitness in addition to all the fun we have racing together. For me it's all about Rusty. He gets me out the door and running everyday. Especially in the winter when it's cold and wet out and the last thing I want to do is bundle up and run for 60 minutes. Knowing that he is relying on me as his teammate pushes me every day.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Rusty. He's the absolute best. Every mile of every marathon he goes wild. As soon as he sees the mile sign he starts cheering and making some noise. He is such a driven competitor. He wants to win every race we start. He wants to know the time and pace at every mile, if we are too slow or too fast, he really tracks the progress of the race as best he can. Despite not being able to talk, Rusty has a real way with getting information out of you! I admire his attitude and spirit more than anything. He is such a positive force, just being around him - especially in a sporting environment - is so inspirational.

A good story about Rusty is before we started racing together when I was running in college, Rusty would be on the computer at school trying to type something into the search bar. This can take him some time and it can be challenging for him to hit the key that he intends to. So his teachers were trying to figure out what he was trying to look up and help him out. A few days in a row he kept going to the UNH track page. His teachers were rightfully confused so they asked my aunt why he kept doing this. My aunt explained that Rusty was trying to look up results from my races. That just meant the world to me, it still does. He's more than my cousin, he's my team mate and one of my closest friends. I really can't say enough about him.

What advice would you give to other people in a similar situation who wish to do what you do?

Go for it! It is so rewarding for everyone involved. It is so much fun. Go onto the Team Hoyt website and see if there are any races on their schedule near you. They can loan you a chair and teach you how to drive. It's a great way to meet other families in similar situations as well. We have a met so many amazing people through Team Hoyt. If you want to raise money and buy yourself a chair, you should reach out to them. They have the resources to help get you started!

Follow James and Rusty's adventure on their Instagram @teamrustyrolls

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