HOUSTON – A Chickasaw County man is the first person to trek all 44-miles of the Tanglefoot Trail in a day in a wheelchair.
“It’s actually 43.6 miles,” said a tired but smiling Robbie Pipkin. “I am worn slap out, but I’m so glad I did this. I am so glad I did this.”
Pipkin also did it on his birthday. He turned 44-years-old.
An emotional Pipkin crossed the finish line in Houston at 7:44 p.m. Tuesday evening May 27, as family friends and others in wheelchairs clapped and cheered. Pipkin started in New Albany at 5 a.m. that day.
Pipkin rolled the trail as part of a fundraiser for LIFE (Living Independence For Everyone) that serves those with disabilities across Mississippi.
“I urge people who have a disability or who are in a wheelchair to beat my time,” said Pipkin. “I stopped in Algoma for about an hour to have lunch and talked with people there. The weather was great and I wanted to do this before the summer heat set in.”
Pipkin said most of Tuesday was overcast and the sun only popped out for about two hours.
“I did get hot and thirsty and even though I had trained for this, it wasn’t easy,” Pipkin said. “I do want to thank Larry Dunn who has been my pit crew and helped me train for this. I also want to thank Jackie Morris, who provides security on the Tanglefoot Trail, for bringing me a cold jug of water at the hottest part of the day.”
Pipkin was soaked in sweat and had worn the beads off a new pair of gloves he had bought for the trek. Pipkin estimated a strong heave on the wheels rolled him about six feet. The math means Pipkin stroked his wheelchair about 38,720 times on Tuesday.
The Tanglefoot Trail stretches from New Albany to Houston and sports a 10-wide asphalt surface with maintained shoulders the length of the project.
The Tanglefoot Trail is a favorite for runners and cyclist because it is relatively flat, paved and scenic.
Whistle-stops have been constructed in Ingomar, Ecru, Algoma and Houlka. Gateways will be built – complete with parking, restrooms, historic displays and information – in Houston, Pontotoc and New Albany.
“I started at the other side of New Albany as far north as I could get,” said Pipkin. “I made good time. The hardest part is the hill coming into Houston. It’s the longest and the steepest.”
Pipkin also said this was the longest trek he had ever made in his wheelchair.
“I got the idea to do this last fall when the trail opened and started training,” said Pipkin. “I did the 10 miles to Houlka earlier this spring and felt I was ready.”
Pipkin urged those with disabilities to look around and challenge themselves.
“Don’t quit. Don’t ever, ever quit,” said Pipkin. “This is the toughest thing I have ever done since I was shot and there were days early on when I was in this wheelchair that I wanted to quit. But I never would have done this and I never would have had this beautiful day if I had. Don’t quit.”
He pointed out LIFE helps those who suddenly find themselves in a wheelchair or living with a life-changing disability. For more information about LIFE contact Emily Word at 662-844-6633.
Pipkin said his next dream is to go skydiving. He said he would start making plans next week for that adventure.
Pipkin said his elbows were sore and he knew his shoulders would be stiff in the morning.
“I probably won’t do this again,” he added. “I do want to thank my family and friends and those who have supported me and donated to this.
“I did it!” he said with a victor’s smile. “A Houston, Mississippi boy was the very first to roll the Tanglefoot Trail.”