NEW ORLEANS -- In a just over two weeks, thousands will be taking part in the Crescent City Classic, but two competitors will be running for a special cause. Even the loss of limbs won’t hold them back. They come from different walks of life, but they’re on a similar path.
"It's a carbon fiber socket, with a carbon fiber leg foot, it's a got a foot shell on it," said Barry Howard.
Howard will be running the Classic with his prosthetic leg. He won’t be the only one.
“I've been wearing prosthetics for about 11 years,” said Brittany Grunberg. “I got meningitis when I was in college. That's how I lost my legs."
Grunberg went from a multi-sport athlete to learning how to walk, with prosthetics. The 30-year-old from Laplace says there were certainly physical challenges. The mental hurdles, she says, were just as tough.
"It took me nine years to really realize that people aren't judging me or looking down on me because of my prosthetics,” she said. “Now that I'm more active doing more things, I come to find that people are just really interested in kind of excited to see what I'm doing in these and how I'm doing on these funny running blade things."
She got her “running blades” free, from a Florida based nonprofit called "50 Legs". It's the same organization that gave 39-year-old Barry Howard his prosthetic. At 8-months-old, Howard had a heart tumor that cut off blood to his lower body. He eventually lost a portion of his right leg. For a good chunk of his life, Barry's mobility was limited until he got a new prosthetic from 50 Legs. Now, he says he can run and even swim.
"It’s a new lease on life,” Howard said. "We don't have to work around me, like me and my family, when we go do things we don't have to worry about are we going to have to take a break because (my leg is bothering me)," said the Metairie native.
Tuesday at the Jewish Community Center in Metairie, Barry and Brittany are getting in shape to take on their next challenge. They’ll be running in the upcoming Crescent City Classic to raise money for the same foundation that gave them their prosthetics. They’re hoping to help others in similar situations who may want to have a better performing prosthetic but may have difficulty getting one through their insurance companies.
“The insurance companies, they really aren't looking to pay for this kind of stuff,” said Grunberg. “They really don't think we need a running leg, or biking leg, but it's very important to us to get back to the lives we used to live.”
Both of them admit they’re not great long distance runners. As liberating as their new prosthetics are, it can still be challenge to run, especially long distances.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m about a zero, maybe a one,” said Howard with a smile.
"Since Barry is a zero or a 1, I’m going to go with a two or three," she said.
Come race day, the duo said they'll be counting the miles, and their blessings. To learn more about their fundraising efforts click here.