Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has completed a 40-mile charity bike tour in Tucson, less than five years after she was gravely injured in a mass shooting.
Giffords finished the race Saturday afternoon in just over four hours.
She is still recovering and the right side of her body is mostly paralyzed. But the former congresswoman from Arizona trained for the last year to take on the longer route at Saturday’s El Tour de Tucson, an annual event that draws nearly 10,000 riders.
She rode the 11-mile portion last year and decided shortly after that she wanted to take on more.
Giffords was wounded in the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting at a political event outside a Tucson grocery store. Six people were killed. Giffords was shot in the head and suffered severe injuries, leaving most of the right side of her body paralyzed. She had to resign her seat in Congress.
The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was sentenced to life in prison.
Giffords has been determined to overcome her injuries. She’s skydived and traveled the country advocating for stricter gun regulations with Americans for Responsible Solutions, the organization she founded with Kelly.
“My recovery has been full of milestones both big and small, and a big one was getting back on my bike and back to riding around this gorgeous city of ours with friends and family,” Giffords said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Giffords has been training for the long bike ride several times a week over the last year, she said. It hasn’t been easy, and she took a tough tumble in the spring.
I want everyone recovering from an injury or setback to know that determination and a little grit can take you a long, long way.
“But I kept working hard, and I’m ready. Mark and I are so excited to be back riding in the El Tour again, and to join with so many of our fellow Tucsonans and with people from around the world for a ride around our community. I want everyone recovering from an injury or setback to know that determination and a little grit can take you a long, long way, and help you achieve things you might have thought were impossible.”
Giffords planned to ride in a retrofitted recumbent bike and Kelly a regular one. The organizers of El Tour dedicated the event to Giffords and Kelly, a retired astronaut.
Giffords showed enthusiasm for the race on her Twitter account.
“Training’s done. Bike’s ready. @iamspecialized gear is laid out. I’m ready to tackle 40 miles in @tourdetucson!” she tweeted Friday.