Paralyzed Alumnus Finishes 2nd Marathon

Joelle Nelson, Co-Editor in Chief

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Justin Pines has a mantra: “No legs, no problem.”

A former high school track star and member of Campolindo’s class of 2004, Pines lost the use of his legs in a skiing accident at Squaw Valley in April, 2016.

More than a year after that accident, Pines returned to campus on December 15 to visit with his former teachers and coaches.  He shared with them many of the details of his rehabilitation, including the physical and emotional challenges he has faced.

It is a journey Pines has embraced with a surprisingly optimistic attitude. For instance, while in the Intensive Care Unit just days after  his accident, Pines compiled a list of things he wanted to do, which included finishing a marathon.

During his rehabilitation, Pines asked what the medical facility’s records were for various physical therapy activities, and then set out to break them all.  His love of competition carried over to all sorts of recreational activities. On one occasion, Pines set a record for consecutive beach ball passes while in a pool. “Hard without abs,” he joked.

Chris Walsh, who coached Pines during his time on the Campolindo cross country and track teams, said he always “had this vision that he would make lemonade out of lemons.”

Just a year after the accident, Pines made good on his goal of finishing a marathon.  Powering himself with his hands and arms in a wheelchair designed for long distance travel, he covered the 26.2 miles of the New York City Marathon. But he wasn’t satisfied with his time. So, Pines acquired a special racing wheelchair, which has angled wheels and a longer body to prioritize speed. On November 4, 2017, he beat his previous marathon record by nearly half an hour, finishing in 2:40:46, a 6:07-mile pace.

Dino Petrocco, who also worked with Pines during his time on the cross country and track teams at Campolindo, sent a congratulatory note once he heard about the 2017 marathon results.

Walsh calls his former athlete’s recent success an “inspiration.”

“As tragic as his situation is… as a paraplegic athlete his opportunities are huge now. One of the biggest venues at the Brazil Olympics in 2016 were the Paralympic games,” said Walsh.

On December 15, Pines was able to take time off from a business trip that brought him back to the Bay Area in order to visit campus.  “I haven’t been back up to Campo since my injury, so to see Walsh and all my teachers again would be awesome,” said Pines prior to his return.

Pines said, “It’s pretty wild, walking – cruising- on the campus and you notice all those little places that trigger all these memories…Even from a different vantage point these days.”

During his time at Campolindo, Pines led the cross country team to the 2003 Diablo Foothill Athletic League and North Coast Section titles. At the CIF state cross country meet, he finished 3rd in the Division 3 race.  In track Pines clocked 4:24 in the 1600 meters and was a member of the school record setting 4 x 1600 meter relay team.

“He had an eternal optimism that was infectious and at times even almost mind-boggling how positive just one individual can be,” said Petrocco.

During high school Pines also served as an officer in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club and was a first chair trumpet player.

Pines later earned an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Princeton in 2008. At Princeton, Pines finished 2nd in the Heptagonal Indoor Championship 5,000 meters.

According to Walsh, Pines was among the best runners in the Ivy League conference.

“He was just really determined to be a great runner, and that’s what he did,” said Petrocco.

After Princeton, Pines pursued a career in teaching. For experience, he joined Teach For America, an organization that provides excellent teachers to low-income areas. He taught a group of students in Hawaii, and also coached the track team. Walsh said the kids respected him on the team because “he could beat every single one of them.”

One student on his team, Aaron Pacala, qualified for state several times.

In 2011, Pines moved from Hawaii to New York City.

 

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Paralyzed Alumnus Finishes 2nd Marathon