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Sarah Rudder of Oceanside, who eventually lost her left leg from injuries suffered after the 9/11 bombing of the Pentagon, is competing in the NOBULL CrossFit Games Adaptive Division. Courtesy photo
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Sports Talk: Rudder won’t run from trouble or a challenge

Good luck talking Oceanside’s Sarah Rudder out of anything.

“When she puts her mind to something,” said Marcus Rudder, Sarah’s husband, “there is nothing that is going to stop her.”

He means it.

Rudder is in this week’s NOBULL CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin, and for the first time it will feature an Adaptive Division.

“I was up to training two to three times a day,” she said. “I’m down to one workout as I give my body a rest before I wreck it again.”

Some might consider Rudder compromised, after she surrendered her left leg because of her sense of duty. Then Rudder, a retired Marine, starts working out at a pace that has others pleading for a timeout.

“I usually start with a mile run and then it’s four or five rounds of 185-pound tire flips,” she said. “Then it’s burpees (similar to pushups), rope climbs, handstand walks. I mix it all in because you never know what the CrossFit event will throw at you, so you have to train for everything.”

Rudder isn’t missing a beat, despite missing her left leg. She gets around on her prosthetic limb with ease, which is equal parts amazing and inspiring.

Rudder was thrown a curve in 2001 when involved in a serious car accident in which she suffered brain and leg injuries. She fought back, like any good Marine, and kept her military career thriving.

Less than two weeks after returning to Henderson Hall Marine Corps base, which is next to the Pentagon, a mending Rudder was promoted to lance corporal. In the minutes that followed her ceremony, a boom shook the base.

“It felt like a earthquake,” said Rudder, who turns 39 next week. “We all ducked and when we looked up the sky was on fire. We didn’t know what was happening, but we knew it was the Pentagon that had been hit.”

Those in the know, know to seek shelter. Those dedicating their lives to protecting America, sprang into action.

Rudder’s arm was still in a sling and her leg compromised from her accident. Her heart was full of empathy for those in dire straits, so she sprinted toward the chaos.

“We set up a triage based on the injuries and transported the others,” Rudder said.

When the smoke cleared, 125 heroes gave the ultimate sacrifice that mournful day as well as all 64 passengers on American Flight 77. Rudder recovered some of the bodies, handling them with respect and reverence.

When pulling out a non-survivor, Rudder stepped in a hole and crushed her healing ankle. She soldiered on before the pain became impossible to ignore.

“My foot was pretty much shattered, and people were like, ‘Didn’t you feel it?’” she said. “I didn’t because my boot was holding my leg together.”

After years of surgeries and painful rehabilitation, Rudder had a choice in 2013: insert a metal rod from her hip to the ankle, which would allow little movement or zero relief from the nerve damage, or undergo an amputation.

Rudder picked the latter and we mentioned, right, about trying to talk her out of something?

“At first my family was, ‘You’re going to do what?’” Rudder said.

Marcus Rudder, her husband of 20 years, knew better than to convince her otherwise.

“She was really determined before the amputation and after it, she was even more driven,” he said.

Rudder was fitted with her prosthetic leg eight weeks later and if she’s looked back, it’s only to see how far ahead she is of others.

After watching the Invictus Games, which features disabled veteran athletes, she dove into CrossFit. It features challenging events to test competitors’ strength, endurance and athleticism.

“It actually just started as my therapy,” she said. “I can step into the gym and there are no expectations. I can just let everything out and I don’t have to time to think about anything bad.”

That’s good for Rudder, who’s also a mother to son Xavier, 13, and he trains with her, too. When he doesn’t tap out.

“Momma doesn’t play,” Rudder said with a laugh.

Or change her mind.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports.

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