Nearly a year after sustaining incapacitating injuries while racing in the Collegiate National Cycling Championship,
Toby Nishikawa is back on her feet and training for the Boston Marathon in April. Nishikawa had qualified for the Boston Marathon at the St. George Marathon in October of 2011, a few months before injuries that left her uncertain that she would ever run again.
Nishikawa is a graduate student in the nursing program at Weber State University, and she teaches lab and clinical courses for the program. She is also the adviser for the WSU Cycling Club. On May 6, while racing for WSU in the road competition, Nishikawa crashed, leaving her with a concussion, a broken nose, breaks in both of her arms and her left hand, a broken hip, a broken shoulder blade and a compound fracture of her femur.
Kaytie Scott, Nishikawa’s friend who trained with her for years, was waiting for her at the finish line, but Nishikawa never made it there. Scott said she remembers feeling angry as more and more racers crossed the finish line and Nishikawa wasn’t one of them. When she heard about the accident, she drove to its location as quickly as she could, where she saw paramedics putting Nishikawa into a helicopter. Scott remembered seeing the stretcher covered in blood, but being comforted when she was told that Nishikawa, although badly injured, was conscious and talking.
“They told me that all she kept saying was ‘put me back on the bike, I want to finish the race’,” Scott said. “That’s totally her personality, too. She just wanted to keep going and finish the race.”
Nishikawa’s husband was the first to find her after her accident, but nobody had actually witnessed it. Although Nishikawa was alert and talking after her accident, she only remembers waking up in the ICU hours later. Through examination of the bike, the possibility that she crashed into something was ruled out and because the course was closed off to cars, the possibility that she was hit by a car was also ruled out. Nobody knows the cause of the accident.
“I wish that I knew what happened,” Nishikawa said. “I wish somebody would have seen it, but it just happened to be at a split moment where nobody was around to see it.”
Nishikawa said there was too large a gap between the racers in front of her and the racers behind her for any of them to have seen, and although there were officials patrolling the race, none of them happened to be nearby during her accident.
Immediately after the accident, Nishikawa was in surgery for a large part of the day. In subsequent weeks, she had to have several more surgeries for different complications. She was in the hospital and in therapy for three weeks after the accident, where she had to learn to walk again.
“I was there when she took her first steps, and it hurt her so much, but she was a champ through the whole process,” Scott said. “She pushed so hard, sometimes she would cry, but she kept pushing through it, and I think that is what helped her recover so quickly.”
Prior to her accident, Nishikawa had run 15 marathons and participated in three Ironman Triathlons. After her accident, she began running again in October, only being able to run for 20 seconds at a time. Now, Nishikawa is training for the marathon she qualified for in 2011. Nishikawa ran 20 miles last week, and said she feels prepared to attempt the Boston Marathon on April 15.
Dustin Bashaw, president of the WSU Cycling Club, said he isn’t surprised that Nishikawa has recovered so well.
“She is so strong,” he said. “To go from learning to walk again to running a marathon, that is pretty amazing.”
Nishikawa said that, despite the difficulties she has had since the accident, she would do it all over again.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” she said. “I learned things that I needed to learn that I never would have learned without going through this.”