Shrimp Festival 5K welcomes all athletes of all abilities

By Allison Marlow
Posted 8/23/17

Clint Martin was struck by the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt.

Since the 70s the father/son team has ran marathons, duathlons and triathlons, more than 1,000 races in all, with Rick in a wheelchair …

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Shrimp Festival 5K welcomes all athletes of all abilities

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Clint Martin was struck by the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt.

Since the 70s the father/son team has ran marathons, duathlons and triathlons, more than 1,000 races in all, with Rick in a wheelchair and Dick pushing.

Martin was inspired. If they could do it, so could he. Not only could he do it, he knew he needed to do it.

Martin formed My Team Triumph Southern Alabama, a local chapter of the national My Team Triumph organization which helps disabled athletes complete endurance events. Able-bodied runners push wheelchairs and run with disabled or special needs athletes.

The organization is advertised as a group that assists disabled athletes. But Martin said the helpers, or angels as they are called, benefit as much from the organization, if not more.

“I could go on for days about how it changes your perspective on life,” Martin said. “To see these individuals who thought they would never compete cross the finish line for the first time with giant smiles and to watch their families see this, it is inspiring.

“Our runners who push the chairs and assist these disabled athletes get as much or even more out of it then the athletes with the disabilities,” he said.

The group provides all the equipment and assistance athletes need to complete a race, including 120 runners to push wheelchairs or run alongside.

“We have an army of folks and equipment ready to provide someone with this experience,” Martin said.

This year, the organization will run the Annual National Shrimp Festival Run in Gulf Shores for the first time. The 5K and 10K courses, which wind through the beautiful Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail are ADA compliant, meaning wheelchairs can travel the entire distance.

“The run has been growing every year and now we have more and more participants with a wide range of athletic abilities who can participate. That was the goal. We’re very excited,” said Jerry Johnson Orange Beach councilman.

Johnson said 2017 is the first year the run will utilize the new trails recently completed as part of the Backcountry Trail complex – seven trails that wind through six distinct ecosystems and, more than 15 miles, of Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Gulf State Park.

“We worked hard, it’s really been a three-way partnership,” Johnson said.

The run is spearheaded by race directors Ginny Barnas, Richard Dickerson and Frank Malone. Now in its 40th year, the race is hosted by the Lower Alabama Fleet Feet Running Club in cooperation with the Gulf Shores Chamber of Commerce. All the money raised is donated to public schools in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores as well as Shrimp Festival charities. Last year the race raised $10,000 and hosted 600 runners.

My Team Triumph hopes to add the Shrimp Fest run to the list of core races they run annually. Currently the group runs about six area races, including the First Light Marathon, Spring Fever Chase and the Publix Grandman Triathlon.

“We’ve never found a race that is logistically impossible for us,” Martin said. “We take the attitude that we can do anything that anybody else can. We will find a way to do it.”