NYC Half: Woman inspired by runner with disability now motivated by daughter's adversity

Brittany Bell Image
Friday, March 18, 2022
Woman inspired by runner with disability now motivated by daughter's adversity
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Brittany Bell has the story of Bernadette Vega, and how her daughter's cerebral palsy motivates her to run.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The United Airlines NYC Half is back, taking runners through 13.1 miles of New York City streets this weekend -- and one of those entrants is Bernadette Vega.

"When you see the finish line, you know you're there," she said. "You know you've done it.

To Vega, running used to be a spectator sport. In fact, watching the New York City Marathon on TV was an annual tradition.

But during the 1998 race, one particular runner inspired her to do more than watch.

"They had featured a disabled runner, a woman with a prosthetic leg," she said. "And she said, 'If I can do it, anybody can do it.' And I actually said out loud to the TV, 'OK, I'm going to do it.'"

Coverage of the event will include live updates on Eyewitness News between 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch the four professional fields compete beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET on abc7NY.com and our streaming apps.

Up to that point, she had never run more than two miles on a treadmill. But within a year, Vega ran her very first marathon.

"I started running outside, I started training, I got into the 1999 marathon, and I ran the 1999 marathon," she said. "I really didn't believe it or really sort of feel it., until I saw the finish line...I actually said, 'Oh my God, I've done it. I can't believe I've done it.'"

Just as she began hitting her stride as a runner, she got pregnant with her first child. She gave birth to her daughter Hannah following a complicated delivery.

"She was born with cerebral palsy and seizure disorder, and so I took some time to be with her," she said. "And then I got pregnant again."

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After years of being sidelined, it was Hannah who inspired her to get back into running.

"You know, she gets me up every single day," she said. "She's got to try harder every day to be the best that she can be. There's no reason why I can't try harder every day to do something that's good for myself."

Her rejoining the sport didn't come easy.

"I felt guilty initially when I got back into running, but then I thought it's not bad to have this time to yourself," she said. "And it's OK to take that time out for yourself to be a better parent."

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Hannah is now 20, and her son Ethan is 15. Vega admits it hasn't always been easy, but she says the tough times make the good times that much more rewarding.

"Life is going to throw you curve balls, even when you don't have a special needs child, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that," she said. "A lot of the time, that's my goal now. I just want to cross the finish line and feel good, and it's a triumph every time."

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