Palmiero-Winters Triumphs with 130-Mile Run

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Photograph courtesy of A Step Ahead Prosthetics & Orthotics.

Will Compete in World Championship

A 24-hour ultra-marathon is one of the most grueling events imaginable—as the sun rises, sets, and rises again over the track, runners' legs ramp up an escalating howl of pain, their shoes disintegrate, and their toenails tear out of their beds. The punishment could break anyone.

Women, with their higher tolerance for pain and heftier fat reserves, oftentimes rival their male competitors in the most formidable endurance races and have set multiple ultramarathon course and international records. However, when Amy Palmiero-Winters snapped the tape as the overall winner of the Run to the Future 24-Hour race in Glendale, Arizona, on December 31, her victory was sweetened by the fact that she ran with only one biological foot. Palmiero-Winters, a 37-year-old mother of two, ran farther than any man or woman in the race—130.04 miles—even though she has had a transtibial amputation since 1997. The distance she racked up was 14 miles longer than the male winner's and 36 miles longer than the second-place female finisher's.

Palmiero-Winters entered the event as a potential qualifier for the able-bodied U.S. national team, which is headed for the World 24-Hour Championship, held in Brive, France, this May. U.S.A. Track and Field, the governing body of the team, confirmed that Palmiero-Winters' win clinched her a slot on the six-woman half of the national team.

"Amy-Palmiero Winters will become the first amputee ever to make a senior open, able-bodied, official USA National Team," Dan Brannen, executive director of the American Ultrarunning Association, affirmed. "Not only that, but she has done so in a year which saw the greatest quality...ever of 24-hour performances by American women. Simply put, it was harder to make the team this year than in any previous year. The standards for making the team were public knowledge, and Amy achieved the required distance on the final day of the qualifying window."

In an article for Running USA Wire, Brennan noted, "Usually the U.S.A. produces one or two women per year over the 130-mile threshold, which is commonly accepted in international ultra circles as defining 'world class' among able-bodied athletes. Palmiero-Winters...racked up 130.04 miles to become the fifth U.S. woman to break the world-class barrier in the past year...."

Palmiero-Winters told The O&P EDGE that she has also qualified to run the Western States Endurance Run, usually known as the Western States 100. Perhaps the most technically tough ultramarathon in America, its runners face a total of 18,000 feet of ascent and 23,000 feet of descent on 100 miles of narrow, rocky, root-bedeviled mountain trails. According to race organizers, "Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory, accessible only to hikers, horses, and helicopters.... Adequate mental and physical preparation are of utmost importance to each runner, for the mountains, although beautiful, are relentless in their challenge and unforgiving to the ill-prepared." Erik Schaffer, CP, president of A Step Ahead Prosthetics & Orthotics, Long Island, New York, is currently developing for Palmiero-Winters a set of custom feet for her races.