Nikki’s Voice has already been heard near and far in Cayman, and now it’s getting ready to speak to an international audience. Scott Ruby and Nikki Christian, who have run marathons together as a duo team, will be participating in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. on Oct. 22.
Mr. Ruby, a seasoned endurance athlete, and Ms. Christian, who suffers from spastic cerebral palsy, have already completed two marathons together. But this will be the first time they have competed outside Cayman, and Mr. Ruby believes their foreign trip may be without precedent.
“Nobody’s ever traveled for this internationally. Here we come,” said Mr. Ruby of the Marine Corps Marathon. “That makes me proud for Cayman. Of all the people with all the resources out there in the world, here’s this little dot in the Caribbean that’s standing up and standing out. I like that.”
Mr. Ruby, who runs pushing a specially designed wheelchair for Ms. Christian, has been pointing toward this event for years. The pair ran their first marathon together in December of 2015, and they have spread the word of their hopes and dreams through the Nikki’s Voice page on Facebook.
Their first marathon as a team took five hours, and they cut 40 minutes off that time last year. Now, Mr. Ruby thinks that he and Ms. Christian can break the four-hour barrier at their upcoming race.
“We’re getting faster and stronger,” he said. “We started off with just the thought of, ‘Hey, let’s run a marathon.’ And that’s what we did. Along the way, we’ve also run two half-marathons, three triathlons and two duathlons. This will be our third marathon and we also completed the half-iron distance.”
The team, sponsored by Home Gas Ltd., Revolutions Indoor Cycling, CrossFit 7 Mile and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, has quite a busy spell ahead of them. First, they will run the Marine Corps Marathon, and health permitting, they will run a 30K race the week after that in Cayman.
After that they are scheduled to compete in a triathlon in November and another marathon in December. Mr. Ruby estimates that he’s totaled 5,000 miles training and running with Ms. Christian, and he said their shared experience has progressively taken over his love for competition.
“She loves it, and I love it too,” he said. “She likes to train and loves to race. Pushing her, as far as activities go, has just become the joy of my life. I haven’t road-raced alone since we started doing it. I just don’t know what I would do with myself without her. I don’t know what I would do with my arms.”
The Marine Corps Marathon is an especially fitting milestone for the duo team, said Mr. Ruby, because it’s so friendly to people who are just like them. The Marine race included 60 teams with wheelchairs last year, he said, including several teams that run under the banner of Ainsley’s Angels of America.
That organization, helmed by Major Kim Rossiter of the Marines, aims to make endurance events accessible to everyone and to build awareness about America’s special needs community.
It is named for Major Rossiter’s daughter Ainsley, who passed away after a battle with infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy in 2016. Ainsley Rossiter took part in 100 road races before she passed away, and Mr. Ruby said he is honored to be able to compete alongside so many teams with a common goal.
But he does not want to just run the race. He wants to finish it as quickly as possible.
“Anybody who says they don’t want to be first is maybe not being as forthright as they should be,” said Mr. Ruby. “I’m up against a lot of 20-something and 30-something Marines. I’m 50. I would be satisfied with a top 10 and elated with a top five. But as long as Nikki is happy, that’s all I care about.”
Ms. Christian trains with Mr. Ruby at least two times a week, and sometimes he runs alone but with a weighted chair to simulate the experience of the run. Ms. Christian has done a lot of traveling with her family, said Mr. Ruby, but flying with their racing gear will be a new experience for both of them.
“If I was just going to a marathon, I’d pack my shorts, pack my shoes, pack my shirt and get on the plane,” he said. “We have started the process of being able to disassemble, package and reassemble and run with the chair and have it be sound so we don’t break it. That’s a whole new dynamic. And then getting to the start line with two wheelchairs, her normal wheelchair and her race wheelchair.”
More than 30,000 people will run in the Marine Corps Marathon, and the duo teams will get a 15-minute head start so they do not get caught in the crush of competitors at the starting line.
Mr. Ruby and Ms. Christian have completed the Flowers Sea Swim together, and they have done a variety of triathlons in their burgeoning partnership. Ms. Christian trails behind Mr. Ruby in a kayak when they swim, but when they run, they have conducted all of their races with the specially built wheelchair.
“We’ve torn the wheelchair to pieces over and over again,” he said. “But it keeps getting fixed.”