PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After a year of therapy, paralyzed cyclist Danny Chew is taking on a brand new challenge: the Pittsburgh marathon.
For years, most people knew him as co-founder and promoter of The Dirty Dozen, the bike race up Pittsburgh’s thirteen steepest hills. To fellow cyclists, he was the Million Mile Man, the two-time winner of the Race Across America.
But that all changed on Sept. 4, 2016, when a dizzy spell caused Danny Chew to crash head-first on a country road outside Lodi, Ohio.
“The helmet may have saved my life, but the neck took all the weight and force,” Chew said. “I couldn’t move. I was in the ditch. It was terrifying.”
Paralyzed from the chest down and learning he would never ride again, Chew fell into a severe depression, and since the life he had known was over, he contemplated ending it altogether.
“I was suicidal at first for a while,” Chew said. “I was. I won’t sugar-coat this.”
But that was more than a year ago, and these days, you can find him training to compete in the hand crank division of the Dick’s Sporting Goods City of Pittsburgh Marathon.
In the past, he could ride 26 miles without breaking a sweat and handle the steepest of hills. Now he’ll need to complete the marathon course with only his arms and a greatly diminished lung capacity.
“So that makes climbing any little hill quite a tough challenge,” he said.
The effort is no less impressive than Danny Chew’s other amazing feats, and he’s an inspiration to the community of cyclists who have rallied around him.
Friend and former training partner Chris Beling says the example transcends cycling.
“To watch him come back and battle, at whatever level he’s gonna do it, I think that encourages anybody through adversity,” he said. “He’s an elite athlete and that still shows.”
“My message to them is you can never give up,” Chew said.
Chew is set on this new challenge — making the most of the cards he’s been dealt and building up his arms to take him the distance.
“As bad as it gets, it does get better,” he said, “so you’ve got to hang in there to see the the better days because they’re on the horizon.”