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Chris Utz Participates Via Handcycle In Baltimore Running Festival

Dylan Roche
View Bio
October 16, 2012

By Dylan Roche

Pasadena resident Chris Utz has made great progress since the January 2011 auto accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He has stayed active, continuing to participate in many of the recreational pastimes he enjoyed before his accident.

Recently, Utz became the proud owner of a Top End Force handcycle granted to him by the IM ABLE Foundation. The day he received the bike, Utz rode it in the third-annual IM ABLE Duathalon. On October 13, he participated in the Baltimore Running Festival, where he rode his bike 26.2 miles to benefit the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Chris’s mother, Cheryl Utz, explained how he has always lived life to the fullest and has continued to do so after his paralysis. “He’s always been active,” she said. “There’s no slowing him down.”

Last year, he went skiing, and this summer he began boating again. He also regularly rides his handcycle around Lake Shore Drive and along the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail.

Chris receives outpatient therapy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Johns Hopkins affiliate dedicated to disorders of the brain and spinal cord. When the institution assembled a team to participate in the Baltimore Running Festival this year, Chris was apt to participate. “They sent me an email, and I thought, sure, why not?” he explained. “I’d never done something like this before.”

To better prepare himself for the race, Chris applied for a new Top End Force handbike from the IM ABLE Foundation, an organization that promotes active lifestyles for individuals with disabilities. Cheryl wrote a grant request on Chris’ behalf, and in September he became one of the three people to receive a bike from the foundation. “It’s a lot nicer than the bike I had originally,” Chris explained. “I had an older one; it was really hard to steer.”

On the day Chris received his new bike, he rode it 15 miles in the IM ABLE Foundation’s third-annual Duathalon. Denise Robinson, his mother’s colleague at the Marsden and Seledee law firm in Baltimore, teamed with him for the running part of the race.

In addition to training for the Baltimore Running Festival, Chris sought sponsorship from friends, family, doctors and other people he knows. In the days leading up to the festival, he had already raised more than $2,000.

On the day of the Baltimore Running Festival, October 13, Chris participated by riding his handcycle 26.2 miles, the equivalent of a runner’s marathon. He said his greatest achievement, however, was simply sharing in the experience. “To me, I’m not racing anybody; I’m just racing myself,” he said in the days beforehand. “I want to finish and I’ll be pleased with myself. Next year, I’ll try to beat my time.”

Chris also recently accomplished another goal: he became relicensed as a driver. Using a specially made hook to control the gas pedal and brake, Chris drives an automobile using the thumb and forefinger of his left hand.

Indeed, this impressive young man from Pasadena seems to be unstoppable. Looking forward, Chris expressed eagerness for 2013 and the opportunities it will bring him in his recreational pursuits. “The Baltimore Running Festival will be the last race of the season, I’m sure,” he said. “Next spring, I’ll see what comes up.”

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