Holly Koester has been in a wheelchair since 1990, but that has never slowed her down. She was the first person in a wheelchair to finish a marathon in all 50 states, was recently inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, and even made it on the front of a Cheerios box!
Holly is positive, determined, and passionate. She was a softball payer in her younger days and decided to give adaptive sports a shot. At first, Holly tried wheelchair basketball and tennis, but it wasn’t the right fit for her. While attending an adaptive sports expo in Texas, Holly had her first exposure to wheelchair racing.
Shortly after visiting the expo, Holly jumped right into her first race which she describes as a short one at 10 kilometers. She received great advice and support from everyone around her and eventually purchased a wheelchair specifically designed for racing. In 1995, Holly completed her first full marathon in Columbus, OH and from then on she was hooked.
A few years after finishing her first marathon, Holly found out about the 50 state club and their goal to complete one marathon in every state. In 2002, she completed her first one that counted towards the goal, and over the next six years completed the remaining 49. Holly’s favorite race was in Hawaii because of how beautiful it was, and also the fact that it was very wheelchair friendly.
Recently, Holly has been finding plenty of ways to keep busy. Last year she was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame for her athletic accomplishments and all that she has done for the community. Holly also sits on the board for the Buckeye PVA. She has been their Sports Director for over 25 years.
Earlier this Spring, Holly and her dog Glory competed in several events at the Buckeye Wheelchair games in Geneva, OH. Glory is Holly’s 10-year-old charcoal lab, that is a crowd favorite at every race she attends. Holly described this years games as one of the most successful yet. She loves the fact that every year the crowds and participants continue to grow, and that the games have helped raise awareness for adaptive sports.
Holly is currently on her second time around completing a marathon in every state, but this time she is using her hand cycle. Rather than having to actually spin the wheels on the wheelchair, she is able to pedal and steer with her hands. This gives Holly more opportunity to look around while she is racing which she really enjoys.
When asked what motivates her, Holly said it is a combination of her family and a joy for life. She spends a lot of time with her twin sister and her kids. They even participate in a different race together every year to raise money for a good cause. Her advice to others is to never stop dreaming and always have a goal set for yourself.
It’s hard to say what Holly will accomplish next, but one thing is for certain….nothing can slow her down!