ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
Six years ago, in October of 2009, Brooke’s life changed forever. She was attending Indiana University as a sophomore and double majoring in Accounting and Finance through the Kelley School of Business on a full ride Scholarship. Before college, Brooke had been a gymnast for ten years and even participated in club gymnastics at IU.
BLINK OF AN EYE
On October 29th, 2009…Brooke was leaving class in her car when she crossed through an intersection and was hit head on by another vehicle. In a split second her world was changed. Her SUV did two 360-degree circles, her windows shattered, all four tires blew out, the airbags blasted out, and the engine of her vehicle came through the car and landed into her lap. When Brooke opened her eyes she was in complete and utter shock. She remembers smoke everywhere in her car and she couldn’t stop screaming uncontrollably. As she tried to get out of her car she realized that her pedals had wrapped themselves around her feet. The only way she could escape was by sliding her feet from her shoes to try and get out as fast as she could.
As Brooke ran from her car, students that were near the intersection grabbed her and held her as she screamed and cried in devastation. She tried to gather her thoughts and had a stranger call her parents in the meantime. Within that time Brooke realized something was very very wrong….both of her hands were crushed.
The next morning Brooke was scheduled for surgery with an orthopedic surgeon in the Indiana area. She had X-Rays taken which confirmed that both of her hands were severely broken. She immediately had surgery and for the next eight weeks Brooke was confined to full casts that ran from her fingertips to her elbows on both arms. Over the next two years, Brooke endured numerous surgeries to correct the destruction of her hands. She had four surgeries over a two year span (one every six months) to try and correct the damage. The surgeries consisted of plates, internal pins, external pins, screws, physical therapy, and multiple casts.
“You may wonder what it would be like to have no use of either hand. Well let me show you…take both hands, tie them behind your back, and proceed to live your life” – Brooke Van Paris.
Without her hands, it was clear to Brooke that she had previously taken life for granted. She couldn’t go to the bathroom alone, shower alone, brush her teeth alone, touch her own face, eat without assistance, dress herself, open a door without help, use a computer or phone alone, or even pet her own dog. She was completely helpless and it tore down her spirit. At this time, Brooke was a 19 year old independent, intelligent, all-star athlete who now had to ask for help with almost everything she wanted to do.
“It was easy to get down on myself and down on life, but I had to stay strong”- Brooke Van Paris.
During this time, her parents were her biggest supporters. They would come down to the University two to three days a week each and would help her with anything they could. They would share talks about life, strength, and about God and his plans for her. Brooke had made the decision that she was going to be a fighter and get through this. She wasn’t going to pity herself and she was going to stay in school and finish the way she planned. Her dad would always tell her to believe in her dreams, focus on her education, and that education is something that could never be taken from her…so she did just that.
With the help of her support group and her amazing professors, Brooke finished school after four and a half years and with a 3.67 GPA. She maintained a full-time student status the entire time after her accident and graduated with a degree in Management from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Brooke was a fighter and she achieved a huge victory by not allowing her accident get in her way of her dreams. She firmly believes that everything happens for a reason and that God had a much bigger plan for her life. Through a “never give up” attitude, she was able to use positivity to help her see the light at the end of the tunnel. Brooke’s accident taught her to be humble and show compassion. She has learned to live every day like it is her last and to value the people in her life.
“Life is just too short to be anything but happy!” – Brooke Van Paris
After her accident, Brooke’s muscles had atrophied and were almost non-existent. Everything she had previously worked for was gone and she was now 22 years old and her goal of playing team sports were very limited. Over her healing period, Brooke gained weight because she was unable to be active like she was used to and she would use food as a way to comfort herself. Brooke had become overweight, un-athletic, and basically living in a body that wasn’t hers.
Last year, Brooke was invited to do her first obstacle course race called Morgan’s Mud Gauntlet. It was a small three mile local race with obstacles, trails, and water. She figured she would try it out and little did she know that her life was going to change yet again. When she finished the race she was absolutely exhausted. Before that day, she couldn’t run to save her life and the obstacles seemed challenging, but she was hooked!
When she got home (covered in OCR kisses) she hopped online and signed up for as many events as she could find. This included OCR events, trail runs, road races, and anything else she could find! Not to mention the fact that before race day she couldn’t even run a single mile without stopping. In the last year, Brooke has done 48 races (22 OCR events) and she qualified for OCRWC at eight of them. In October of this past year, she competed at OCRWC in both the individual and team events (ranking high in each of them). With determination, healthy eating, proper training, racing, and focus…Brooke was able to lose 40 pounds in just a year.
“I had earned my body, my happiness, and my life back!” – Brooke Van Paris
BEAST MODE BARBIE
Obstacle course racing helped Brooke meet so many amazing people that have helped her growth from novice to elite. Some of her biggest supporters (other than her family) are the Crazy Mudder Muckers, Kevin Jones in particular. She joined this OCR family of racers after the Ohio Spartan Beast and they have always supported her! They share workout tips and meal ideas through social media as well as meet up at races to share experiences. Being a part of this group has made Brooke feel like she has an OCR family that shows each other love and support on and off the course. They have even given her nicknames such as: BVP and Beast Mode Barbie.
The last year has been a crazy ride for Brooke and she continues to love every minute of it. The world of OCR has taught her to wear her OCR kisses and medals proudly. Even though she raced nearly every weekend for nine months, it helped Brooke find her passion and love for life again. She wants to inspire people with the story of her journey and to motivate anyone she can as a reminder that they are not alone.
Brooke uses a quote by Babe Ruth to describe her journey, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up”. She plans on running mainly elite heats this coming year, but she will always remember her journey and the struggle she has emerged from.
“No matter where I end up placing, I know that as long as I try my best and never give up, I will never be beaten.” – Brooke Van Paris
CURRENT WORKOUT PLAN
Brooke currently goes to the gym five days a week and includes weightlifting, plyometrics, grip strength training, and cardio into her routine. She prefers to get out of the gym as much as possible and enjoys riding her bike, running trails, running the stairs at the War Memorial downtown Indiana, and she also runs the canal. Brooke also loves rock climbing and doing obstacle training with the Indy OCR meet up group.
In October 2014, Brooke weighed 170 pounds. She now weighs 145 pounds which consists of a 40 pound fat loss and 15 pounds of muscle gain.