by Carrie Adams

It started with an email.  A friend sent me a recent Travlete article featuring a man, and accomplished athlete named Michael Mills.  He was looking for training tips for the upcoming Georgia Spartan Race being held near his current home, Covington, GA.  It’s not uncommon for first time Spartans to seek out tips to tackle our courses.  Known for their brutality and secrecy, we don’t release course maps, any insight into how to prepare is something that our community is always looking for.  His request, however, was unique because of how he’ll be completing the course.  Said Mills in the email, “I am looking for all pointers anyone can give, training and etc. I am actually going to crawl almost the entire 3 miles of the course. I will use my wheelchair some, but the majority of the time I will be crawling.”

Mills is a T12 paraplegic, the victim of a head on collision with a drunk driver in 1993 and though he’s been tackling wheelchair racing since 1996, competing in over 160 road and track races in the twelve years since, even representing the United States three separate times, he saw the Spartan Race series and realized it was the next challenge he wanted.

“I have the strength and the heart, just need a little advice.” He assured Travlete.

Intrigued, I contacted Michael myself, the polite Southern man with Southern manners, who insisted on calling me Miss Carrie had completely won me over and I was willing to help in any way possible to help him not only get ready for the race, but to share his journey with our Spartan community.  Not since the Chris Davis Project did I feel so compelled to share this story of toughness, of dedication, and of heart.  Michael Mills has all three.

I’ve asked Michael to share weekly blogs about his training his preparation and his journey towards Conyers, GA 2013.  Here is part one, how he found Sparta.

Michael’s car post-accident

My name is Michael Mills and I’m a T12 paraplegic from Covington, GA. I’m 36 years old, married with an amazing wife named Tiffany Mills.  We have two children Brandon, 11 and Katriana, four. We also are expecting our third child on or around 12/3/12. We are excited to welcome Michael Elijah to our family.

On 5/2/93 I was headed home from a typical day working from my best friend’s house and was less than three miles away when I struck head-on by a drunk driver.   The accident nearly cos me my life and left me with countless injuries.  When the paramedics arrived, I was dead for 28 minutes.  They pronounced me D.O.A.

My car had landed in a yard near the scene of the crash. The woman who lived in the home actually got into my car with me and tried to save my life before the paramedics arrived.  After they pronounced me dead, she pleaded with them to, “Please try one time,” to revive me.

The paramedics tried one time and as soon as they shocked me, I came back to life.  My injuries were significant.  I sustained a left eye socket fracture, left jaw fracture, left broken shoulder, all of my ribs sets broken on the left side, and almost all on the right.  Both of my lungs were punctured, I sustained a compound fracture of the left femur and required countless stiches. My aorta was severed and my left ventricle was damaged to my heart. Because of the damage to my heart, I lost the majority of blood from my body.

Lastly, I was left paralyzed from the crash. The doctors told my parents if I made it through the surgery, I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life.  I survived the surgeries but only time would tell.   Two weeks later I came out of my coma and was for the first time since the accident alert and aware of what was going on.  I had survived.  I was still alive.  I spent the rest of my summer in the hospital, I also turned 17.

I made it out of the hospital just in time to go back to school the same year. I was back in school just three months post-injury. I spent more time in the hospital later on in the year and the following year but still was able to graduate that next school year.

In 1996, I found wheelchair racing. I found racing by watching the 1996 Olympics. I was hooked. I went out bought a used racer and the rest was history. I started racing everywhere. I began to get better and faster. I started to compete all over the world.  Here it is, 12 years later and I’ve raced over a 160 road and track races in my career.  I’ve been world ranked and have had the opportunity to represent my country three times in my career and have loved the opportunities to do so. I just recently finished my 2012 with one of the best seasons ever.

A few months ago, I came across a photo of man dawning full military gear and saw him with only one arm.  It was Todd Love from Team X-T.R.E.M.E.  He was crawling through mud and when I Iooked a little deeper I found Spartan racing.

I thought to myself, “I can do this. I want to do this. I need to do this. I’m going to do this.”

I immediately signed up without hesitation. I decided I was going to do this Spartan Race. I posted up on Facebook I was going to do it and I had a few friends say they’d do it with me. I had some people say it couldn’t be done and that fueled me even more. So, I set out to prove everyone wrong that didn’t believe in me. I want to prove that there was no such thing as a disability. I wanted to prove that a disability is simply a mindset. You can do anything once you set your mind to it and I know that.

I wanted to raise awareness for a local charity called Berts Big Adventure. BBA is a non-profit who takes chronically and terminally ill children to Disney World so they can be kids for one week. They treat the parents too. This was a big deal for me, because without support from the people in my home town of Smithville, MS my family and I wouldn’t have made it. Everyone pulled through to help us and that’s why I want to help BBA.

I’ve decided to do my first ever Spartan race crawling on my hands and knees for a better part of 3.1 miles.  So I train six days a week and sometimes three times a day to get ready for my event on 3/9/13.

Want to stay tuned in to Michael’s journey?  He’ll be regularly posting his story and training on our blog in a series we’ll be calling “Chasing Michael Mills.”  Follow his facebook page.  Want to support his cause? Check out Spartan Sprint for Berts Big Adventure | Michael Mills’ Fundraiser on CrowdRise.

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