Just thought I’d take a look back over a wonderful year. I traveled to some really fun cities and ran some really cool marathons but best of all I met a bunch of terrific people. Funny people, kind people, generous people, and a few very, very special people.
While waiting with my wife in the JFK International Airport in New York for our return trip back to Utah I met Walter Brown. Because we were both wearing our marathon jerseys there was an immediate sense of fellowship. We struck up a conversation and I learned he was from Utah and was waiting for the same flight I was. I told him I only had one leg and that I had lost it in an accident but through years of recovery and training I was able to run marathons. He was very interested in my story and my experience and then he told me about the almost unbelievable accident he was involved in and his amazing journey to overcome his injuries.
Nineteen years earlier in the early morning of Christmas Eve 1993, Walter was driving home with his then-girlfriend, now his wife, Misty, when he hit a patch of black ice on a bridge. He hit the guard rail, and the impact of the crash disabled his car.
A woman stopped to help him, and he asked her to direct traffic around him while he tried to figure out how to get the car to start.
“I was going to pop my hood when I heard an engine revving,” he said. “The car came straight into the woman and hit her; then it hit my car, caused my car to hit me and pinned me into the guard rail. His car continued to crush into my car and the guard rail until my car moved sideways. I fell forward, and I couldn’t move. The car landed on top of me, kind of twisting me. I was lying on my left side, facing oncoming traffic.”
“As soon as (medical personnel) turned me over, my left hip opened up,” he said. The gash was eight inches long with bone sticking out of it. His intestines were falling out of the gash and blood was pouring out of his body. “One of the paramedics pushed his knee into my hip (to stop the bleeding), and it was the most extreme pain I’d ever been in. … It was so crazy.”
He was so damaged — 23 breaks in his pelvis, broken and hemorrhaged knees, and traumatic injuries to his intestines and internal organs — that doctors did nothing but monitor his vitals that first night.
“In the morning they gave me the option of pinning my hips together, and they told me I’d never walk again,” Brown said. The other option was to be in a cast and suspended in the air by pulleys for two months. With this option, they said, he might have a 50 percent chance of walking with a crutch or cane.
Walter Brown found the courage to walk again and eventually to run again. Today he runs marathons in under three hours and he runs fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. To look at him you would never guess that anything was ever wrong with him.
Another amazing person I had the privilege of meeting last year was Mohd Shariff of Singapore. When we met I was unable to pronounce his name so he told me to just call him SBR. SBR stands for ‘Singapore Blade Runner’. The unique running prosthetic legs we use are know as blades and since he is from the country of Singapore this makes sense. I showed up for this particular marathon all alone and was feeling a little lost amongst the crowds of runners. SBR was very nice and very helpful and let me hang out with him until the race began. We talked and shared stories of the thing we both love the most..running of course. He taught me that running marathons is more than just a feeling of self accomplishment but that by over coming our own personal challenges we can inspire others to do the same. Or as SBR says, ‘I run to inspire the world’. He is both a great athlete and a wonderful person.
There have been many others who were kind to me and helped to inspire me this last year. I’ve had people invite me into their homes to take a much needed after race shower. Some have invited me to spend the night so I could rest up before driving or flying back home. The more I recall all the nice people I’ve met the more I realize I can’t mention them all but I would like to thank everyone for a great year and if all goes well 2013 will be even better!