OGDEN -- On May 5, Toby Nishikawa and her family were planning to run in the Ogden Marathon to promote organ donation in honor of her 8-year-old nephew, who will someday need a liver transplant.
The next day, she inadvertently gave her friends and family an additional cause for which to run.
Nishikawa, a local star triathlete, won't be able to run in Saturday's marathon after breaking multiple bones and sustaining other injuries in a devastating crash during the final stage of the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships on May 6. She has been laid up ever since at McKay-Dee Hospital, where she can normally be found taking care of others as a nurse in the emergency room and neo-natal intensive care unit.
Her husband, Payton, who has never run a marathon, will be taking her place. And her 60-year-old mother, Mary Simpson, will be attempting her first full marathon as a tribute to her daughter. Other family members will participate in the 5K run, and several fellow athletes and teammates will run the marathon in specially designed T-shirts bearing the phrase "I run, ride & swim for Toby," along with orange ribbons as an homage to her favorite color.
Nishikawa's accident happened near the bottom of the North Ogden Divide on the Eden side, just a few miles from the finish line of the road race stage. She was competing as the only female member of the Weber State University cycling team. She said doesn't recall anything about what happened and hasn't been able to find anyone who witnessed her accident.
"I don't remember crashing or seeing anything in the road; I just have no recollection of the fall whatsoever," she said. "The race was going really well. I was somewhere around sixth or eighth place, and next thing I knew, I woke up in the ICU with a breathing tube in my throat."
She suffered nine distinct bone fractures in her legs, arms, left hand and nose, but is now moving around and doing some daily exercises.
"Hopefully I'll be back out there soon," she said.
Ask anyone who trains with her, and they have no doubt she'll be back -- and probably sooner than expected.
"She's a really tough girl. You don't know the half of it," said Marty Smith, who runs with Nishikawa regularly as a member of a group of local women who dub themselves the "Sweat Sisters."
"She gets us motivated and makes us all tougher," Smith said. "I think a lot of the girls wouldn't do as much without her. I know I wouldn't."
Joel Rackham, founder of Simply Mac Racing, a local cycling and triathlon club of which Nishikawa is a key member, organized the effort to create and sell the T-shirts honoring her. He said nearly 100 have been sold, and a second production order has been placed.
"In the running and cycling community as a whole, we all become very close, so when something like this happens to one of us, we all rally around them," Rackham said. "We're trying to bring awareness to someone in need, and hopefully awareness of safety for all people who are into these types of sports."
The shirts are available for $20 each at a website he created, www.ride4toby.blogspot.com. All of the proceeds go to benefit Nishikawa. There is also a link on the site for anyone who wants to simply donate to help cover her medical bills.
Simpson said some of the runners Saturday will still be promoting organ donation through their apparel. She said the family made T-shirts, long before the accident, for Toby's nephew, Evan, who was born with a disease that will eventually require a liver transplant.
"We've got a couple of stories now with all this family-related stuff going on," she said. "The emphasis is on fundraising and community support, and it's brought so much good out of people."
Nishikawa became emotional when describing the outpouring of support from the local community as she travels the long road to recovery.
"Everyone has been so giving, caring and wonderful. I had no idea how much love and kindness was out there," she said.
"You can't realize how much you rely on friends and family with an injury like this. I just want to thank everyone for being so gracious and kind and giving. I want people to know how grateful I am for everything."