Handed a second chance

Amber Rosenberry ran the Broad Street Run for the first time in 2011, a year after her right arm was injured.
Amber Rosenberry ran the Broad Street Run for the first time in 2011, a year after her right arm was injured.
Posted: April 28, 2013

The Inquirer is running daily profiles of participants in the May 5 Broad Street Run.

In the summer of 2010, Amber Rosenberry, then 30, was walking through her Philadelphia neighborhood when she tripped over a crack and fell into the street just as a delivery truck was driving by.

She avoided the front wheels, but the rear wheels crushed her right arm. She didn't lose the arm, but after repeated surgeries it was encased for months in a metal brace worthy of the Terminator. The heavy cast she wore led to back problems.

These were dark, depressing days for a young woman new to Philadelphia. Her Washington Square West neighbors rallied around her. Local salons took turns washing her hair. A coffee shop would open cans of food for her.

She set goals to motivate herself, small ones at first:

"Write an entire text message with my right hand."

"Eat a bowl of popcorn with my right hand."

The last goal: "Finish the Broad Street Run."

Rosenberry was never much of a runner. The mile run in high school gym left her close to tears.

But she needed a goal, motivation to get back to who she was.

"Growing up, I was a military brat - we moved all over the place," she recalled. "I remember getting to Philly and hearing everyone talk about the Broad Street Run."

So in February 2011, she went online and left it up to fate. "I figured, if I can get a spot in this race," she said, "it's meant to be."

Sure enough, she was accepted. In less than three months, she'd have to transform herself from the woman who hated running to an athlete strong enough to finish a 10-mile race. With her arm and back troubles, she wasn't sure she could do it.

She started training by walking one minute, running one minute, and gradually increased. She discovered something about herself: She loved it.

"After the accident, running didn't seem so difficult, because my threshold for pain was changed," she said. "Sore feet and aching knees were minute when compared to the pain in my arm, but it was good to think about something other than my arm."

A friend and videographer, Melody Tash, chronicled her comeback for the race, now dubbed the Blue Cross Broad Street Run: http://vimeo.com/cinemaquilt/amber.

At the starting line, Rosenberry wasn't sure she could run 10 miles. "I knew that my house was around mile six," she said. "I figured if I had to stop . . . I could."

Rosenberry didn't stop at mile six, or at mile eight, Methodist Hospital, site of her surgeries. "I didn't realize the hospital backed up to Broad Street," she said. "At that moment, there was no question I was finishing that run."

That was the most emotional day of her life - confirmation that she was back to being herself and that she could accomplish big goals.

"This is my city now," said Rosenberry, now 33 and an engineer for a Drexel Hill construction company. "I love running past my familiar landmarks and seeing my neighbors along the course. No other run I've done compares to Broad Street."

Rosenberry is now a dedicated runner and will be back at the starting line again this year, continuing an incredible journey with a most unlikely beginning.

How the Boston Marathon affected her: "The first year I ran Broad Street, I went up to Boston to watch a friend run to inspire myself. I watched her from that very corner where the explosion occurred.

"I was part of the memorial run last Thursday, thousands of runners congregating at City Hall and running down to the Liberty Bell. I did that run in my Boston Bruins sweatshirt."


See more at www.inquirer.com/health_science/ and www.philly.com/

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