(NEW YORK) — Having competed in races, marathons, and other athletic feats, Brandon and Tara Butcher are readying to take on one of their toughest physical tests yet.
The siblings will climb over 1,500 stairs and 86 flights in the Empire State Building Run-Up on February 7, a task that at one time seemed impossible for the inspirational duo.
Tara and Brandon are single-leg amputees, having each lost one of their legs in separate accidents. They will climb New York’s iconic building with the support of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), the official charity partner of the Run-Up, which helps to give athletes with physical challenges access to sports and an active lifestyle.
They both spoke with ABC News about their accidents and subsequent athletic achievements, their involvement with CAF, and how they have prepared for their next climb.
Tara had her leg removed in 2005 after she was struck by a vehicle on a California highway. She quickly got involved with the Challenged Athletes Foundation upon recovery, calling it the force that “catapulted me to being an athlete.” She was not as serious a competitive athlete as she is now prior to her involvement with CAF.
She says CAF has provided her with several grants for expensive running prosthetics, and offers a “supportive community” that has helped launch her into new athletic challenges.
Heading into the run-up, Tara’s approach is to “not think about” the height of the Empire State Building, nor how many stairs she is climbing, because “that’s kind of how I go into things.”
Instead, she has turned her focus to building endurance, saying, “I know I can do it physically… and I know I’ll go in there, put my mental game on, and I’ll just do it… I’m more of an endurance athlete. I know I can go for a long time. I’m just going to do my best.”
Seven years after Tara lost her leg, Brandon suffered an accident while working on a routine solar panel installation job in Utah. A co-worker was sliding off the roof, and Brandon lunged over to save him, falling and injuring himself in the process.
He too had his leg amputated, telling ABC News the recovery was “tough” and “depressing,” as he led “a very active life prior to my accident.”
He adds it was “tough for me to try to get back to where I was because I had based my life so much and I prided myself so much on my physical ability prior to it.”
Tara helped Brandon get involved with CAF, which excited him because he saw “how much they gave and changed for her [Tara].” The foundation provided Brandon with a grant for a mountain bike, giving him an opportunity to try a new sport and return to a competitive, active lifestyle.
In preparation for the run-up, Brandon says he has been training on a Stairmaster as well as his bike. He does not expect to compete with his sister. Rather, he just hopes the two of them will “be an inspiration to others.”
He also concedes that the climb will not be easy, calling it “the most difficult event or activity that I have done since having a prosthetic leg, by far.”
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