HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This year marks the largest group of disabled athletes participating in the Chevron Houston Marathon. Now, one Houston hand cyclist hopes to lead the pack on her home turf, even though it's far from the biggest challenge she has faced.
Hoping for a personal record and likely one of the top spots for finishers, Adessa Ellis will race in the 2020 marathon for just the third time on three wheels. Ellis, though, is far from a stranger to endurance sports.
Four years ago, Ellis was training with a friend in Fort Bend County for a triathlon.
"I was out for a 100-mile bike ride when a drunk driver ran me over at 7:30 in the morning," she said.
Her heart stopped and her lungs collapsed. She had a lacerated liver, broken hip and pelvis, and broken bones in both legs. A risky emergency surgery saved her life, but that was only the beginning of her long road to recovery.
Ellis' left leg was eventually amputated.
After years of work, rehab, suffering and grit, she made it back to Houston's marathon, but this time on a hand cycle.
"I just got this bike and I just went out and did it. No training," she recalled.
Since that first marathon, she has competed as a hand cyclist in the U.S. Marine Corps Marathon, the New York City Marathon, and she placed third in the 2019 Boston Marathon this past spring.
Ellis won't be alone out there on Sunday. She will be part of the largest class of disabled athletes to compete in Houston's marathon.
"The program itself has grown immensely," said Bernie Tretta, organizer for the disabled athletes committee for the marathon.
"Our very first year, we had 10 hand cyclists, and now we have over 200 people participating - athletes, volunteers and guides. We now have a hand cycle division, a wheelchair division, a visually-impaired division, and a mobility-impaired division," said Tretta.
Every one of those athletes is redefining the concept of disability.
"You can sit in your house and stare at your TV all day, or you can get up and move. All I know is to get up and move," said Ellis.