The man who fired the shot that paralyzed her was sentenced to life in prison last October. Two months later, Christine Kent found new direction in life by completing her first marathon in a handcrank wheelchair.
"I was only going to do the half marathon, but once I started going I decided to do the full thing. I just kept going, it was so much fun," Kent said of that 26.2-mile joyride in the Palm Beaches Marathon. "It was the most fun I've had since my injury. I was just smiling from ear to ear the whole time."
The Oakland Park resident will be smiling again Sunday when she competes in the A1A Marathon in Fort Lauderdale. That alone is a major accomplishment, considering the pain she has endured since the event that changed her life on Aug. 7, 2007. She was assaulted at her home by an acquaintance, Allan Sinclair IV, who shot her twice and ran over her with his SUV.
Sinclair's sentencing brought closure and the first marathon opened a new sense of purpose. She improved her time by 25 minutes three weeks ago in the ING Miami Marathon. But it's not the result that's important to Kent.
"I like the feeling that I can do something as opposed to I can't," she said. "Living with paralysis is extremely challenging. It's been an incredible experience to be involved in a physical sport such as this."
Kent will be competing along with members of the spinal cord injury support group at HealthSouth Sunrise Rehabilitation Hospital. Team leader Chris Holcomb introduced them to the possibility, and Mary Bryant of Achilles International provided the handcrank wheelchairs and expertise to get them on course.
Forty Achilles International athletes will compete Sunday, including members of the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, beginning at 5:40 a.m. by the Museum of Discovery. A field of about 4,000 runners will start at 6 a.m. in the marathon and half marathon.
Kent's step-sister Shelly Stenhouse is coming from South Carolina to pace her around the course on a bicycle.
"We have a large group and we're all rooting for one another. I hope that by sharing in this together that we can make a difference and be an inspiration to other people who are disabled," Kent said.
Craig Davis can be reached at cldavis@SunSentinel.com