20 Years of Hope, Possibility and Trisha Meili
By Grace McGuire
Trisha at the finish line of her first Hope & Possibility® race in 2003
Trisha Meili sits at home in Florida. She has been through so much. She is the Central Park jogger. She has been attacked and raped. She has gone through trial after trial. It is now over 30 years since her assault and has been 20 years since she revealed her identity to the world. Despite all this, Trisha Meili sits at home in Florida wearing a neon yellow Achilles International tank top and an equally vibrant smile.
After suffering a brain injury from the assault, Meili has endured years of recovering and recuperating, but now she focuses on spreading messages of support and hope to others with similar physical “challenges” and other victims of assault. One of the ways she has done this is through the race she founded with Achilles in 2003 called the Hope & Possibility®.
“To me, this race is about the power of the human spirit. It’s a celebration of resilience,” Meili said. The four mile race that takes place in Central Park every year, the same place her attack took place, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
“It’s an opportunity for all of us, of all abilities, to choose to move forward together. That’s what Hope & Possibility® is all about,” Meili said. “The race focuses on what we can do, what we are doing! We are moving forward no matter what knocked us down.”
Meili has overcome many obstacles that would keep some people knocked down, but she has always rebounded with spirit. She attributes some of this spirit to the Achilles organization which she joined during her inpatient recovery at Gaylord Hospital in Connecticut. It was this handful of Achilles members that she “ran” with for the first time since she had been attacked in a quarter mile loop through the hospital’s parking lot.
“I’m here, only a few weeks after being fully dependent on a wheelchair, and I thought to myself, can I do this and do I want to?” Meili said, reminiscing. She remembered how heavy her limbs felt that day, how standing and stopping “just did not happen naturally” because of her brain injury, but she was still able to do it. “There’s a slight incline in the parking lot where the course ended and it seemed like Mount Everest to me, but I just felt like I had conquered the world.”
Trisha in her element at the finish line
She has felt a similar energy at every Achilles Hope & Possibility® race, especially the first one in 2003.
“There was such a remarkable light and spirit in the park that day,” Meili remembered fondly with a bright smile. “It just lifted me…It really was incredible.”
The Hope and Possibility® race, a name that pays homage to Meili’s memoir and recovery process in general, has only grown since that first day. With over 8,000 runners signed up two weeks prior to the race, Meili is predicting 9,000 runners at the starting line on June 26. It will be their biggest race yet.
“It is just amazing that it has grown as it has,” Meili said. She has expectations for this race, though. “What I want people to do is look to their right and look to their left with the idea that we’re in this together, appreciating that we’re all a group supporting each other to run the best race we can!”
Meili will be spreading this sense of community and empowerment from the sidelines as she focuses on others this year. She will of course give inspiring comments before the race, both commemorating and kickstarting this year’s event. Meili will be at the finish line to cheer for the participants as everything she has been through has taught her the importance of seeing a smiling, supportive face.