My disability became my strength

Marianne Hüche, Danish competitor at the 2014 Invictus Games

My name is Marianne Hüche, I am 50 years old and have two adult children. I am currently working as Operations Manager in a Danish design company based in Copenhagen.

In March 1990 I was involved in a traffic accident during a military exercise. I was sitting in the back of a car which was hit from behind by another car at high speed. I broke my back and was partly paralysed on my left side due to a spinal cord injury. I now need to use crutches when walking.

Unfortunately, I am part of the small group of people with spinal cord injuries that suffer from phantom pains 24 hours a day. So besides everything else I had been through, I also had to learn to deal with chronic pain that cannot be treated in any way.

After the accident I gained a lot of weight and at my worst I weighed 137kgs. As I was dealing with everything, I was victimizing myself big time and comforted myself with lots of food, cakes and sweets.

I suffered from osteoarthrosis, diabetes and very high blood pressure but despite all of this, I continued clinging on to all the excuses I could fine for not taking responsibility for my own life. In 2009, a wake-up call from a friend and my doctor pushed me into changing my way of living. The result? An 87kg weight loss.

Watching many people around me finding the joy in running I started to run myself in 2010. Although I had to run in a slightly bizarre style as I needed to use my crutch when running to keep my balance and compensate for the paralysis. Since then, I have raced several marathons and in 2013 I discovered the sport of triathlon and I completed my first full distance Ironman that year.

From that day, my triathlon career has evolved explosively as I quickly proved to be one of the top para-triathletes in the world. In 2014 I was the first para-triathlete in Denmark to be granted pro-license. It was also the year of the first Invictus Games and I was there representing the Danish Delegation. And in 2015 I made it clear that I am one of the absolutely best para-triathletes in the world when I won the world championships in both Long Distance Triathlon and Cross Triathlon.

My sports mean everything to me both physically and mentally. I’ve gone from feeling like the poor disabled obese failure of a human being to the the person I see in the mirror now who is a strong athlete that is an inspiration for many people. My disability has suddenly become my strength and the foundation for my new identity – instead of an obstacle and an excuse for a bad lifestyle.

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