Running with purpose

Dr. Darren Smith to participate in the Rock 'n' Roll Portland Half Marathon Sunday

A local man is not letting a medical condition stop him from doing what he enjoys.

Dr. Darren Smith, of Camas, has “foot drop” — paralysis of his lower left leg and foot. He acquired the weakness of the tibialis anterior muscle in 2002, after he underwent a surgical procedure to help embolize a soft tissue mass on his back.

After using braces that helped with lateral stabilization, Smith found the Allard USA ToeOFF brace in August 2010. His athletic accomplishments include winning the 2012 and 2010 Canadian National Paratriathlon championships and the 2012 PATCO/PanAm Paratriathlon Championship.

The events include swimming, bicycling and running.

“I feel incredible to have competed against some of the fastest in the world,” Smith said. “Just because the word ‘para’ is used in front of a sport, does not make people slow. There are some fast people with missing limbs out there. The category I compete in includes below-the-knee amputees.

“Paratriathlon champion is a great title, and my love for competition has made that a goal every triathlon season,” he added. “I compete in local races against able bodied athletes as well.”

Last month, Smith, 47, took first place in the Clydesdale division (200 pounds and more) at the Heart of the Valley Triathlon and Duathlon, in Corvallis, Ore.

Sunday, he plans to run in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland Half Marathon.

Smith is a member of the first national team for people with foot drop called “TeamUP.”

“This is an incredible opportunity to show the public about another group of disabled people that aren’t in wheelchairs or have amputations,” he said. “I feel very honored that I can help spread the word and help others to ‘get back up.’”

The eight-member team also includes captain and national marathoner Beth Deloria. In 2004, she was sidelined due to a spinal injury, which also resulted in foot drop. Deloria went from running 26 miles regularly to not being able to walk without tripping.

In addition to running, Smith races his bicycle at Portland International Raceway and plays hockey with his son at Mountainview Ice Arena, in Vancouver. He also helps coach a lacrosse team of third- and fourth-graders, supported by King’s Way Christian School, in Vancouver.

Smith is one of the medical officers for the Lewis & Clark Young Marines.

“I participate in their physical training sometimes alongside them, wearing my brace,” he said. “I hope to inspire others to keep active by showing that something that people may consider a horrible life changing event, doesn’t have to stop you from being active.”