Tragedy can strike at any moment, to anyone, without warning. No matter how physically strong or mentally tough you are, life has a way of testing you to see what you’re made of.  How you respond in the face of that adversity can define who you are. Sometimes we come across a story of someone who personifies strength and what it means to be a Rugged Maniac, and Maniac Shannon Huff fits the bill – and then some. This is her story.

Three years ago Shannon was “not feeling well” at work and was sent home. What started off as relatively normal, however, quickly became more serious as she lost feeling in her tongue and began to struggle with speech by the time she made it to her office’s parking lot. Shannon went straight to the ER, and continued to experience strange symptoms in the waiting room. No one in the ER appeared concerned, so she remained patient, despite losing feeling in her arm. By the time Shannon sat down with a nurse, symptoms worsened to the point where had lost complete ability to feel or move her legs. Shannon was experiencing a stroke, and for the first time in her life, felt completely helpless.

The road to recovery after a stroke is a long and painful one, and Shannon’s was no different. She spent a week in the stroke unit, a week in the ICU, and an additional nine weeks in an inpatient rehab center. This was all while being away from her husband and three kids, which made it so much more difficult for her and her family. She was told she would never walk again, and after 44 years of mobility and athleticism, spend the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair. Shannon had different plans, however. While in rehab she worked tirelessly to regain independence, despite nurse’s orders, often sneaking around in her wheelchair to do normal every day activities that now required assistance, like using the restroom and bathing.

She began using ankle weights to try to regain strength in her legs. The more doctors told her to prepare for a life in a wheelchair the more she pushed herself and convinced herself that wasn’t an option. Soon, Shannon was able to lift her leg off the ground for two seconds. A minor movement for your average person, but an enormous accomplishment for Shannon at that point in her recovery. Every day her doctor told her to “keep proving me wrong”, and she did, in a big way. After more rehab over many painful months, Shannon graduated from a wheelchair to a walker, and eventually to a knee brace. After 9 months of indomitable will and despite two additional minor strokes, Shannon had gone from being bed ridden to walking again.

Fast forward two years to just a few weeks ago and Shannon recently completed her first ever Rugged Maniac on May 7th in Virginia. Through laughter and tears she completed all 25 demanding obstacles. “The energy and camaraderie amongst friends and complete strangers out on the Rugged Maniac course was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve spent several years recovering from my stroke and it’s tough to put into words how awesome it felt to be able to complete Rugged Maniac with friends and family.” Shannon embodies what it means to be a Rugged Maniac, and we couldn’t be more proud she chose us to be her first OCR race.