Proud Marine, Mom, and Hand Cycling Paralyzed Veteran Medalist
As we celebrate Veteran’s Day, it’s important to honor those serving today and in years past. So, we wanted to share one Marine’s story and say thank you to all veterans. We also want to extend a special promo code to save $50 on top of our existing $100 sale (use “Veterans” at Checkout for our XCS 200 series or the XCR 300. Code expires on 11/15/19).
23-Year Career in the Marines
Leigh enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1983 and was trained as a Russian Linguist. As a Corporal, she was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program. She served as an Intelligence Officer and Foreign Area Officer until her retirement in 2006 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Highlights of her 23 year career include: four command assignments (in Guam, Parris Island SC, Camp Lejeune NC, and Fort Meade MD), her duty as Director of the Special Support Activity, NSA at the onset of the War on Terrorism, her final assignment as Defense Representative and US Defense Attaché to Latvia, and four brief support deployments to the Middle East (Kuwait and Iraq).
Life-Changing Spinal Cord Injury
In 1996 while cleaning up Hurricane damage in NC, she sustained a Spinal Cord Injury leaving her partially paralyzed from the waist down. Sumner, determined to stay in the Marines, returned to Camp Lejuene in a body brace, braces and with a walker.
“I told them I had one leg good enough to hop three miles,” she said. “Six months later, with aggressive physical therapy and a personal trainer, I managed to, wearing a Forest Gump-looking brace, managed to run and pass a full Marine Corps physical fitness test.”
With aggressive therapy and fitness rehabilitation she passed fitness standards and remained on active duty. Satisfied that goal was met, she set herself another: She adopted four children and poured her energy into their needs. After her retirement, she opened a gym, helping others with fitness and rehabilitation.
Discovery of Hand Cycling After Spinal Cord Injury
A life-long athlete, Sumner played field hockey and ran track in college at ECU and Appalachian State. She started hand cycling in 2015 and is a proud member of Paralyzed Veterans Racing. She finished in 1st place in the 2015 Army Ten Miler and third place in the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon. She then went on to medal at both 2016 Paracycling Nationals and the 2016 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Due to injury and surgeries, Leigh to stop racing in mid-2016. She focused on rehabbing her shoulder with a SciFit in a physical therapy clinic. She then started using Excy at home as an upper body ergometer as she trained for a return to competition in mid-2018. She discovered Excy after reading about two-time Paralympic gold medalist Travis Gaertner who uses Excy as a portable bike for hand cycling while traveling.
Returning to Sport After Injuries
Not only did Leigh return to the hand cycling sport she loved in mid-2018, she rocked it. In the Valor Games, she was the fastest female hand cyclist (3 men were faster). On August 22, while Adaptive Mountain Biking in CO, she had an impressive end-over-end downhill crash and fractured her right wrist and hand. That kept her off her from hand cycling for a full five weeks and significantly limited her road training for eight weeks.
But she started back on Excy as a safe, controlled upper-body workout that she could do at home on September 13. She rode Excy every few days as her injury healed and confidence grew. Without proper on-road training (only 3 short on-road training rides, 11 Excy rides ranging from 30-105 minutes) she raced the Army Ten Miler in mid-October. She was the second female hand cycling finisher at 50:38.
She then did the Marine Corps Marathon and was the 4th female hand cycling finisher at 2:29:50. Neither of those were personal records, but she was pleased with the results coming off injury and with only 3 training rides on the road in 8 weeks. Excy again helped her train safely while healing from injury and supplanted her training excellently.
2019 DoD Warrior Games
This summer, the Newton Grove, North Carolina resident just in the DoD Warrior Games for hand cycling, shooting, track, and indoor rowing. She brought home four gold medals for hand cycling and rowing for the Wounded Warrior Regiment (WWR) Marine Corps team. Watch her feature on local TV.
“Life to me should be about service,” Sumner says. “It’s more important what we do for others than for ourselves.”
Not only are we thankful for Leigh’s service, we also are now privileged to be a cheerleader in doing everything we can to support her journey. Thank you to all those who serve. Keep the medals coming Leigh!