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NYC Marathon: Running with Juan

Posted Monday, November 02, 2009 by Perry King
Guiding a Brave Runner to the Finish at NYC Marathon

I got a chance to experience the NYC Marathon for the first time in a great way by serving as an Achilles Track Club guide to a Colombian soldier, Juan de Jesus Loaiza Delgado, who as a landmine victim was running on 2/3 of a right leg, and he had only 7 full fingers. What he did have though was a huge amount of courage and determination during a painful 6 hours and 26 minutes on the trek through the five boroughs.

When I was assigned as a guide volunteer to run with Juan a month ago, I had thought he was equipped with a high-tech Cheetah spring to run on, a device that can allow runners to go very fast as I well know from having run next to some of the athletes in Central Park. Juan though is a poor Colombian former Army captain (but with a big and loud family-and-friends greeting party in Central Park) who was running on a regular sleeve and foot\shoe device that is certainly not meant for running marathons. He had noted on his application form an expected time in the 3:30-4:00 range, but that was based on having run a half-marathon under warmer condtions in his hometown of Bogota, Columbia. The NYC Marathon was much longer and gustily colder, and we spent more than hour sitting during a dozen stops that were required for him to remove the prosthetic leg for massages of the right leg muscles and to do a rudimentary taping of the skin that was constantly being rubbed raw by the plastic\rubber sleeve.

But after 26.2 miles of running, walking, and resting; him snapping pictures of NYC from the bridges and me taking a lot of DFXC-style pix of him finishing; constant cheers for "Achilles" and "Colombia" throughout the distance and especially from the Latino neighborhoods and runners; too many Gatorades and too little language comprehension; we enjoyed a magical dash to the finish in front of the Central Park South and West crowds, including some of his and my family members.

Where the NYC Marathon will rank to Juan among his many achievements, I'm not completely sure. He and a group of fellow Colombian army amputees scaled the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas last December, Mount Acancagua in Argentina, and he also has won prizes as a swimmer. But he was clearly captivated by the majesty and pageant of the race and will return home knowing that he has achieved another great feat that even runners with two whole legs find daunting. I expect to be reading of more big achievements about Juan on the web in the future.

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