2017-12-02 / Front Page

50 marathoner: focus on what you CAN do


Coming from a large family, Potter County native Paul Erway has enjoyed strong support from kinfolks throughout his life. He has, in turn, inspired relatives to aim high in their own pursuits. His nephew, Kol Erway, joined him on foot while Paul wheeled his way to the finish line at a recent ultra-marathon. Coming from a large family, Potter County native Paul Erway has enjoyed strong support from kinfolks throughout his life. He has, in turn, inspired relatives to aim high in their own pursuits. His nephew, Kol Erway, joined him on foot while Paul wheeled his way to the finish line at a recent ultra-marathon. Paul Erway is no stranger to taking on adversity, so it should come as no surprise that the Potter County native recently completed perhaps his most inspiring challenge in a life full of them.

A book he has written, “50 Abilities, Unlimited Possibilities,” delves into the journey of Erway and two fellow wheelchair racers who completed 50 full 26.2-mile marathons in 50 states.

Using an engaging narrative, he describes preparing for the races, the inspiring people he met along the way, and the unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Once he set out to chronicle the experience, Erway discovered that the wheels were turning so rapidly in his mind that he churned out enough material for multiple books.

“Printing would have been very expensive and nobody has the attention span to read something that big anymore, so I decided to split up the story,” Erway told Endeavor News. A second volume is expected to be published late next year.

Reviews have been positive, which Erway finds gratifying. “Several readers have written in their reviews that they had trouble putting it down. I am very pleased and blessed.”

“For various reasons, the three of us have to use a wheelchair to get any place,” Erway writes. “We have chosen to be active, competitive and to represent others who have a physical disability. There was an old saying to describe people like us, ‘physically challenged,’ so we ask, how many others have done 50 marathons in 50 states?”

His story runs much deeper than athletic competition. It’s a tale of perseverance and determination, as well as an examination of the subtle prejudices that the disabled often experience.

The trio didn’t just race. They visited a series of hospitals and rehabilitation centers to talk about spinal cord injuries, research and treatment. Part of the proceeds from sales of the book will go to the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation (CDRF) for research.

The book can be purchased on Amazon.com and the website 50abilitymarathons.com.

Paul, a son of Eugene Erway and the late Dorothy Erway, is a rehabilitation products consultant, working on vehicle modifications for people with disabilities.

He was raised on a northern Potter County dairy farm and was pursuing a college degree in animal husbandry, intending to become a horse trainer, until a fateful Friday night in May 1980.

Erway was riding in the back seat of a car that slid into a construction zone ditch in Shinglehouse. Paul’s spinal cord was severely injured.

Though he has no feeling below his chest, the fire to push forward burns brightly within him. Wheelchair racing came naturally. It started many years ago when a friend challenged him to a short race to a utility pole. Erway lost, but decided, “If I’m going to be in this chair, I’m going to see how fast I can push it.”

He moved to Kentucky in 1994 and, 12 years later, he was going down a steep hill when he encountered a pickup truck on the other side of the road. Erway lost control of his chair and slammed into the driver’s door. He suffered a broken collarbone, two broken ribs, a punctured lung, a spinal compression and a scalp injury.

Two hospital stays, three rehab stints, four operations and five months later, Paul found himself at the starting line of a marathon in Japan. And he has been wheeling forward ever since.

He recently injured his ribs again during a casual ride with his wife over Labor Day weekend.

Still, despite the numerous bumps and bruises and occasional broken bone, Erway, 59. said he has no plans to stop competing. He hopes to enter a half-marathon in Phoenix in January.

“The message of our race series and this book is hope. It’s the whole idea is setting a goal and doing whatever you can to reach it, no matter what obstacles you may face. My hope is that people see what we did and realize that their disability isn’t the end of their lives. The first thing people have to learn to do is to let it go. Before, you could do 10,000 things. Now, you can only do 9,000 things, so don’t dwell on the 1,000 you can’t.”

Return to top