GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids man competing in the River Bank Run Saturday has an interesting perspective on the 25K. He’s seen it both from a runner’s perspective and that of a handcyclist. 

“First race I did with the handcycle was the River Bank Run so it is a very special race both for me and Grand Rapids really,” said Ted Droski. 

For years Droski competed in countless races as a runner, including the Amway River Bank Run, but in 2015, his life changed dramatically. 

“I was in a pedestrian-vehicle accident. Crushed standing behind my car on the road.”

Droski lost his right leg, and at first, he thought his racing journey was over. As part of his recovery with Mary Free Bed, the recreational and adaptive sports program offered to loan him a handcycle.

“Went out for a bike ride and as soon as I hit the road, I felt alive and free again. Going fast, moving with ease and pain-free, it was really a wonderful thing. I remember slightly crying at the time just from that moment of freedom and haven’t really gotten off the bike since,” Droski recalled. 

Since then, he has competed in several marathons, including Boston in April. 

Ted Droski prepares for the start of the Boston Marathon handcycle race on April 17, 2023. (Courtesy: Mary Free Bed) 

“It was my first time traveling by air with my handcycle which is a nerve-wracking experience,” he said. “It was a beautiful race. People absolutely everywhere and just an exciting, wonderful time.”

Christy VanHaver, the River Bank Run handcycle and wheelchair division coordinator has seen the impact adaptive sports can have on a person, including Droski. 

“Ted is a very humble member of our Mary Free Bed hand cycling team. He is very accomplished even though he would never say it,” VanHaver said. “It’s really amazing to see people realize their full potential.”

As the only 25K wheelchair race in the world, VanHaver added that the River Bank Run acts as a “home tournament” for the rehabilitation center’s hand cycling team.

“This is their chance to compete and excel and really kind of show off their talents in from of their hometown crowd. The adrenaline is high, it’s so exciting. It’s such a huge accomplishment for these athletes that have come so far in their own journeys.”

It’s something she said wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Mary Free Bed Guild. 

“Our Mary Free Bed Guild through thick and thin is behind us and behind our athletes, supporting them. More and more we’re hearing travel is expensive, it’s hard to pay for travel to get to these races and we support our handcycle team and their travel expenses. We also support all the racers that come to this race,” VanHaver said. 

“For me, it’s wonderful because I get to experience the magic of racing again,” Droski said. 

From running the race to competing on a handcycle, Droski said the River Bank Run will always hold a special place in his heart. 

“As you’re out there grinding on the course, as a runner and you’re hitting all the hills, I remember hitting those same hills on the hand bike and having the same sorts of struggles getting up the hills. It’s the same joy and pain of running as it is in cycling and it’s just wonderful to be able to experience that on the other side of this too.”