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Boston Marathon survivor runs into her new future

Boston bombings survivor Mery Daniel after the 11th

Boston bombings survivor Mery Daniel after the 11th Annual Achilles International Five Miler race in Central Park. (June 30 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Hundreds of spirited participants with disabilities, some without a leg, an arm or eyesight, walked, ran and rode tricycles in Sunday's 11th annual Achilles Hope and Possibility 5 Miler through Central Park, led by Mery Daniel, a Boston Marathon bombing survivor who lost her left leg.

Crossing the finish line using a tricycle in about 40 minutes, Daniel, who received her first prosthesis last week, said the race is a symbol of faith.

"We are here and we can pass adversity," she said. "There is a sense of community that we watch out for each other's back, and that brings me hope."

Diego Boix, 52, of Manhattan and Valencia, Spain, who lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident 20 years ago, said finishing the five-mile trek with his prosthetic leg "is something I have never done. I wanted to test and see what my mental and muscular capabilities can achieve."

Under the lush tree canopy of north Central Park at the three-mile marker, dousing her head with water, was Suzy Burke of Syracuse. She said being blind and walking five miles with the aid of two volunteers helped recognize "my self-worth."

Maneshka Perera, 27, an occupational therapist from Manhattan who walked with her co-workers from NYU Langone Medical Center, said people with disabilities in the race "have to work all areas of their body."

She said the athletic event offers such people the "best medicine of exercise, being outdoors and in touch with nature. Wellness and health gives us all a natural high."

The five-miler was organized by Achilles International, a nonprofit organization that helps challenge athletes with disabilities. Achilles attracts athletes from across the globe, including U.S. war veterans and children.

Daniel reflected on the loss of her leg, saying she's adapting to her body's limitations.

"You become so vulnerable," she said. "But I also get to see another face of humanity that is caring and giving." She cited as an example the $8,000 check given to her by a group of schoolchildren in Weymouth, Mass.

"It was very emotional to see these children show love and generosity," she said.

Daniel, who has a 5-year-old daughter, was at the threshold of taking her last medical board exam to become a general practitioner when she was injured at the Boston Marathon.

"I have to recover both physically and mentally before I can take my last board exam," she said. "I want to move forward and keep my focus and energy on the positive."

Daniel, whose prosthesis cost $50,000, said she hopes to raise $500,000 to meet her future expenses, which include buying a new prosthesis every few years.

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