This is the story of Jefferson, TX's James Mauldin.  James was born without legs and fingers on his left hand.  If you think this would slow him down, you are very mistaken.  James runs cross country for the Salisbury School and just finished his first triathlon in July.  If you've ever needed or wanted motivation to become active in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, here's one of the best examples of people that there could be.  This excerpt is courtesy of James Mauldin:

DISCOVERING NEW ATHLETIC CAPABILITIES

            Before living at school I had never imagined running, cycling, or swimming much less doing them back to back. However, the exposure to living at a boarding school provided me the opportunity to discover new athletic abilities. Starting in the summer after my freshman year to the summer after my sophomore year I learned how to swim, run, and cycle, in that order and from scratch.

For years I wanted to learn how to swim but I did not know how to start. Finally deciding swimming was a must, I took a course in Longview, Texas, at the Good Shepherd Medical Center’s Institute for Healthy Living. My instructor, Jessica Gee, taught me how to swim within seven days! She admitted she never guided an amputee before. However, showing confidence and persistence I pushed myself and by the end of the course I managed to swim three hundred meters! This was only the first step to my goal.

Feeling successful I pushed on again to learn how to run. At Salisbury School, we are given a choice each trimester to do a sport. In past years I played soccer. During the fall of my freshman year I played but towards the middle of the season I developed knee problems. This has happened in the past and I thought it would be ridiculous to keep hurting myself in a sport that I never truly enjoyed. By sophomore year, I signed up for cross country. Not expecting much from it, I thought I would just come for the ride. That was my first impression on the first day. For the following weeks it felt like boot camp. I had never run more than a mile, which took ten to fifteen minutes before, so running three point one miles was a huge stretch. Luckily, I never gave up. Running the cross country course felt like running a marathon. The struggle at the beginning made a strong foundation in my athletic skill.

Two weeks before the season was over I was fitted for my first pair of running legs. The carbon fiber ‘J’ shaped feet are my ultimate gift. Before I made excuses not to run but now I make excuses to run. Knowing that I am able to run more than a mile was an important milestone for me. One of my struggles as a novice runner was my time compared to all the other runners. It created a negative conscious in my mind to quit. Looking at this optimistically however, I persisted to compete against myself. Had I quit simply because everybody else would pass me would bring a sharp curb to my life. During my second season as a cross country runner, not only did I split my time in half but I discovered that I sincerely loved to run. With tremendous help from my peers, coaches, teachers, and friends at Salisbury school I pressed on; I was so close to my goal.

The summer before my junior year I dedicated my time to learn how to cycle. My coach, Amy Palmiero-Winters, guided me vigorously to just balance on the bike. For days I sat on the bike while we tried finding ways to balance. On the third day Amy suggested a brilliant idea for me to coast down a false flat in her driveway. Taking these small steps, I learned to ride within a week!

Learning to discover and push my athletic ability in the just a year and a half helped me to reach my goals. The best part is that I actually love what I do. Looking back I have done several road races, one full sprint triathlon and two relay triathlons. One of my favorite accomplishments is the triathlon relay I ran in La Jolla near San Diego, California. I ran a half marathon with Amy and Kelly Bruno. The second is the Jefferson Heritage Triathlon in Jefferson, Texas. I did a relay with an awesome and very supportive teammate, Shad Hicks. I did the half mile swim and five- kilometer run while he did the cycling portion. Fortunately I managed to do it despite training only for a week and half! The greatest feeling when I run, bike, or swim, during a race or when I am training, is the incredible support I receive from all my friends, family, and triathletes I meet. Discovering that I love triathlons, I cannot wait to sign up for the next race!

Learning to run, bike, and swim is an exciting feat, but it was still challenging; I am also learning something new all the time! In order to fulfill such great goals, I split them into three parts. Within each smaller goal I faced several challenges. Running may be my strongest suit but I thought of quitting my first week. At most I could jog a couple miles then stop. Before I was fitted for my running legs I used my walking legs which are significantly heavier to run. Swimming was a challenge in its own because I did not have the confidence or the concept of how to float. Balancing on a bicycle was another hurdle to get through. With the support and help from my family and friends, I forced myself not to give up. I am, in some ways, a stubborn person. Positively, my stubborn trait helped me get through the hurdles to my ultimate goals. I am very grateful for all the support and guidance from my colleagues and family. The best way to continue and increase my goals is to train hard, listen to myself, and seek others for advice.

- James Mauldin
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Before starting any exercise, diet or health routine, first consult your physician to make sure that your body is healthy enough for physical activity.