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Riding the Coast For Awareness

Reprinted from SNS November 2017

At 17 years old, Owen Anketell spent the summer promoting adaptive sports as the first person to handcycle from Maine to Key West, Fla

A journey of 2,365 miles. That’s equal to about 38 Yellowstone National Parks stacked on top of each other. Or traveling the entire length of the New York City subway system almost 10 times. It’s also is the distance from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Fla. — the entire East Coast of the United States. 

Biking that distance would seem like a daunting feat for many, but for high school student Owen Anketell of Hudson, Maine, he was determined to be the first person to ever handcycle 
that distance. 

Due to hereditary spastic paraplegia, Anketell uses a wheelchair, which has never hampered his love of sports or his desire to break records. After years of preparations, Anketell became the first person to handcycle the entire East Coast, just in time for his 17th birthday.


“The inspiration that sparked my journey down the East Coast was when I started skiing and I met two gentlemen who became my coaches,” says Anketell. “One is the first person to ever ski down Tuckerman’s Ravine (in New Hampshire) in a monoski, while the other one was the first to push his wheelchair up the Mount Washington Auto Road (in New Hampshire), unassisted. So I wanted to be the first to do something. I found that no handcyclist had ever gone down the East Coast, so I decided that is what I would do.”

Ready To Ride

Preparations for the ride took years to complete from planning, fundraising, training and more. Anketell was joined on his trek by his cousin, Bryce Coffey, and best friend, Matt Farrell. The group trained together, going on long rides through mountain trails, and Anketell worked with a personal trainer two to three times a week for six months leading up to the ride. 

He spent as much time as possible on his handcycle to get ready. The group’s ride lasted 65 days over this past summer, and 49 of those days were spent on their bikes.

“What inspired me to bike down the East Coast was that he [Anketell] was going to be the first handcyclist to ever do it, and he would be doing it to help spread awareness for disabled sports,” says Coffey. “I also wanted to do it because not many people are able to do something like this and have a chance to do this in their life. So I wanted to be able to say I was able to do it, even at 16 years old.”

The group completed the trip in strategic stretches based on distance, hotel availability, landmarks they wanted to visit and more, all while staying within 50 miles of the coast. 

One of the biggest hurdles the group encountered was the heat. They biked across miles and miles of flat farmland under the beating sun. The hottest day of the journey was in South Carolina at 106 degrees and 95% humidity. The longest stretch was in Florida on State Road A1A, during which they biked more than 80 miles. 

Florida was the trio’s favorite part of the journey, as near the end they were joined by family, friends and other supporters who cheered for them. 

“What kept me motivated during this journey was knowing that all I need to do is change one person’s life and show them all that is possible and to never give up,” says Anketell. “But I think I was able to do so much more than that with being able to stop along the way with different groups and talk to them about what I was doing.” 

For more information on Anketell’s organization, visit adaptivesportsawareness.org.

 

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Riding the Coast For Awareness

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