Marathon man Cerebral palsy doesn't stop Conway teacher

— Doctors told Curt Amenta's parents when he was born that he would never walk.

Now the 34-year-old runs marathons.

Amenta, a special education teacher at Carl Stuart Middle School in Conway, was born in Geneva, Ill. He said his parents were told he had "a mild form of cerebral palsy."

He has limited use of his right side - he characterized it as about 15 percent compared to his left side.

"The difference between my left side [and right side] in terms of strength is amazing," he said.

Despite the first diagnosis of not being able to walk, Amenta learned not only to walk, but to run, with adjustments.

"I land on one part of my right foot, almost like on the ball of my foot," he said.

He and his father, Charles, have run in nine Chicago Marathons, which are 26.2 miles long.

"Running is just something me and my dad have always done together to spend time together," Amenta said.

"The Chicago Marathon was something I had heard about growing up, and one year we decided we'd give it a try," Amenta said.

The most recent Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 had nearly 36,000 starters from all 50 states and 120 countries. Temperatures were in the low 70s when the race began, but already had climbed into the 80s whenthe top runners were finishing, which set a record for the hottest weather for the marathon.

Because of concerns of runners becoming ill from the heat and the humidity, race officials asked scores of runners to drop out of the race, including Charles Amenta, 55.

"I was far enough along in the race they let me stay in," Curt Amenta said.

He finished the race with a time of five hours, 30 minutes and 47 seconds.

Magnets, T-shirts, medals and blankets from the various marathons he has run decorateAmenta's classroom.

"One year I had all my students sign the T-shirt I wore to the race," Amenta said.

He spends a lot of time training and tries to compete in two or three half-marathons a year.

"Running a marathon is a pretty big test of who you are, and it's a good way of testing yourself," Amenta said.

He also bicycles in events such as the Great Arkansas Pig Out Morrilton and Toad Suck Daze in Conway.

"For me, running is a hobby, and it's about fitness. I compete more against myself to improve my health and fitness," Amenta said.

This hobby does not go unnoticed by the teachers, studentsand administrators at Carl Stuart Middle School.

Dian Polk, a teacher at Carl Stuart Middle School, said, "Everyone who works with Curt is impressed with his marathons. I feel like he's a good example for his students."

Besides teaching, Amenta has been a student. He received his master's in counseling from the University of Central Arkansas in December. He and his wife, Lauren, have a 15-month-old son, Eli.

Harvey Benton, principal of the school, praised Amenta.

"He's an inspiration to me, and he's an inspiration to his kids, because he shows them you can get out and do anything you put your mind to," Benton said.

River Valley Ozark, Pages 131, 144 on 02/10/2008

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