GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Zeeland West High School student is overcoming the odds to compete in Saturday’s 40th annual Fifth Third River Bank Run.
If there is a challenge to be had, Jared Hart will more than likely take it — white water rafting, scuba diving, snowboarding, rock climbing and now the 25K handcycle.
Hart is described as competitive and driven — driven by, not only a love, but a need to stay active.
“Yes, use it or lose it,” Hart said laughingly.
In Hart’s case, quite literally. He was born with arthrogryposis which means his joints didn’t form.
“It limits my joint movements so my elbow doesn’t have full movement and knees don’t have full movement,” Hart said. “But I kind of just go out and expect to do it. If I can’t find a normal way to do it, I’ll do something different.”
Whatever it takes.
“I like to do it because it’s competition, and then I need to do it because I want to keep walking,” Hart said.
As limited as Hart’s joints are now, they could — and to some degree will get — progressively worse if he doesn’t stay active.
“And then over time, they kind of seize up too. So that’s kind of why I do sports to keep them able to be used,” Hart said.
Three years of racing with the Mary Free Bed handcycling team to running with the Zeeland East High School’s cross country and track teams, Hart inspired many along the way.
Hart has run under six minutes with less than 30 degrees of movement in his knees and right elbow. He wears carbon fiber braces that provide some movement for his locked ankles.
“What they are is basically my ankle in this case because I don’t have much of an ankle to use. So what they do is provide mobility for it so I can actually walk and run fine,” Hart said.
He says he doesn’t let things get him frustrated.
“I just do things differently. I try just as hard as everyone else and if I have to do something different I will,” Hart said.