Noelle Lambert hugs an opponent after a race at the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships.
Noelle Lambert is set to compete in her first Paralympic Games just a few years since stepping onto the track for the first time. She played collegiate lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Boston, and wasn’t quite ready to hang up her active lifestyle upon graduation. But more importantly, she felt called to be able to support fellow amputees in the same way that she once received help and support.
Lambert had just completed her freshman year lacrosse season at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Boston when she was in a moped accident with a friend, which resulted in the amputation of her left leg. The accident did little to slow Lambert down, however. Her recovery was done at full speed - she redshirted the 2017 season and was cleared to play in March of 2018, just a year after receiving her new running blade.
During her recovery, Lambert attended a camp for amputees that would unknowingly shape her future. It was there that she was first introduced to Femita Ayanbeku, a fellow amputee and member of the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field team.
“I had these thoughts in the back of my head after my accident, I really wanted to get into Paralympic sports. She was the first connection I made,” Lambert explained.
Fast forward a few years, following a successful return to lacrosse and her college graduation. Lambert wasn’t ready to hang anything up, and wanted to continue her competitive and active lifestyle.
“The day after I graduated, I bought a pair of blocks and got to work. I signed myself up for the soonest race I could, which was in Arizona at the Desert Challenge Games.”
So Lambert began to train, with only one month before her first race. But just a month later, Lambert finished first in her classification group, catching the attention of coaches and athletes alike. In fact, she saw a familiar face in Femita Ayanbeku.
“Femita kind of took me under her wing. She introduced me to her coach in Boston, and I’ve been training with them ever since,” said Lambert. “I really owe all my success to Femita. It was her and her coaches because they were the ones who believed in me and pushed me. She’s really been my mentor through this entire experience.”
From there, Lambert continued to progress. She qualified for the 2020 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Team, and made her first World Championship appearance in 2019. There, Lambert took fourth place in the 100m dash.
Despite the work she’s putting in on the track, Lambert is doing something even more important off of it. It was shortly after her amputation that Lambert got the idea to start the Born to Run Foundation. She explained that her own experiences quickly taught her how expensive specialized prosthetics are, and how frequently insurance companies don’t help cover the costs.
“To be able to play lacrosse again, I needed a running blade. To be able to go to the beach with my friends, I needed a waterproof prosthetic,” Lambert explained.
Fortunately for Lambert, two separate foundations stepped in and donated those necessary prosthetics for her. The Challenged Athletes Foundation, headquartered in San Diego, CA, provided Lambert with the running prosthetic she needed to continue playing lacrosse competitively. The Heather Abbott Foundation, founded by a Boston Marathon survivor, donated Lambert a waterproof prosthetic.
“I really wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for them and all of the outside support that I got,” Lambert explained. “I knew that it was something that I wanted to be able to do. I wanted to be able to give back to others and I wanted to use my voice and my experiences to help other amputees that are going through similar experiences.”
And thus, the Born to Run Foundation was born. Although Lambert and her family had the idea almost immediately, it took some time to take the necessary steps to form the foundation and get it up and running. In 2018, they made their first donation. With the help of Lambert’s friends and family who sit on the board, help with fundraising, and more, the Born to Run Foundation continues to grow in size and support.