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Returning to the Army 10-Miler

October 24, 2013

It was 6-years ago to the day when I was urged to attend the Army 10-Miler by my physical therapist MAJ Campbell at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio. It had only been a short while since I had first started walking on a prosthetic and I asked him; “sir, I haven’t even walked 1 mile how am I supposed to complete 10?”. His response “do what you can then get in your wheelchair for the rest, you’re going to do this!” and like a good soldier does, you step back and say “yes, Sir” and get it done.

So my first Army 10-Miler would take place only 5 months after injury and would consist of a short walk then pushing myself in my wheelchair the rest of the way. Although I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I was given orders (so to speak) and since I hate hospitals figured I’d rather go through the pain of 10 miles than stay on the hospital grounds. With that I packed my bags and with a small group of fellow warriors and therapists made it to D.C.. As we lined up and I stood at the starting line the National Anthem rang out and I swallowed deep to hold back the emotions of what had happened on May 22nd, my brothers who paid with their lives and the fact that there I stood at the front of the start to the 2007 Army 10-miler with no one in front of me and the cannon sounds. I shake, duck and quickly snap my head to see the the smoke from the cannons and think what the heck are they thinking. We start to walk with a therapist to my right and my left, I make it nearly mile 1 and my “stump” is screaming, throbbing and I am walking like crap (what was I thinking). I look at my therapist and say give me my chair (this is no performance chair by the way, this is your typical hospital wheelchair), I take my leg off and hand it to my therapist and say I’ve got to do this. And I pushed that thing the remaining 9 miles and along the way motivated by the many athletes who passed me encouraging me as well as the spectators ringing their cowbells and yelling words of encouragement. I was blessed to be there and that was one of the many moments in time that still drives me today.

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Fast forward 6-years, it’s 2013 and things have really changed from a physical and psychological perspective as I’ve been able to reclaim the physicality I thought I would  never regain. But this event is about more than the physical act of running, this for me is an emotional event. I arrive this year with a new support group beside and all around me from the great folks of Prosthetic Innovations (my prosthetic shop) and the many Team Red, White and Blue teammates from all across the country. But above all that it is the memories of my friends and fellow soldiers not here with us this day; SSG Kristopher Higdon and PFC Robert “Bubbba” Worthington for whom I say a simple thank you to everyday and before every event I have the privilege to complete at. And although not shared aloud on Sunday this as a special day for me this 10-miler this was for us, the three of us and as the National Anthem rang out and completed I attempted to choke back the tears unsuccessfully as they hid behind my sunglasses I wiped them from my cheeks and make my way to the start line. Then we line up and the cannon sounds for this 10-mile journey to begin.

As the miles tick away and I am spurred by the many words of encouragement from fellow athletes and the spectators who line the course, I return that energy to them also cheering on my fellow athletes and thanking those who line the course taking time from their day to cheer us on. The finish line is nearing and I am filled with emotions of excitement as I make the last turn. There it is, the finish line. I open up my stride to to cross the finish at 1:26:13 and am filled with emotion as this was a feat I had not imagined possible those 6 years ago. I thank all those athletes who shouted words of encouragement along the way and the spectators who lined the roads.

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