It was more than just a personal desire to not give up that drove one perseverant veteran to impressively finish the 2019 Boston Marathon crawling on his hands and knees.
On Monday, former marine Micah Herndon set out to complete the legendary 26.22-mile Boston race in honor of his friends and former marines Mark Juarez and Matthew Ballard, as well as British journalist Rupert Hamer.
All three men were killed in 2010 after their vehicle was blown up in Afghanistan, while Herndon miraculously survived the blasts, Record-Courier reports.
Though it was his first time running in the marathon, Herndon — who used to be a lead machine-gunner for the United States Marine Corps “Lava Dogs” division — has been relying on running for years as a way to cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the outlet.
“I run in honor of them,” Herndon told Ohio-based newspaper. “They are not here anymore. I am here, and I am able. I am lucky to still have all my limbs. I can still be active. I find fuel in the simple idea that I can run. Some cannot.”
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By the end of the race on Monday, Herndon’s exhaustion got the best of him and the veteran collapsed to the ground just a couple of strides behind the finish line.
Refusing to give up, Herndon steadily finished the final steps of the race without any assistance, but still on his hands and knees — an emotional moment which was captured on Twitter by a race bystander.
Showing an incredible amount of determination, perseverance, and grit, the Ohio native crossed the finish line in a still impressive time of just under 3 hours and 40 minutes, according to CBS Boston.
He was then immediately lifted into a wheelchair to receive medical attention by a team of EMTs watching over him in the final moments of his race.
The incredible accomplishment wasn’t just for himself, as Herndon shared with Record-Courier ahead of the race that running has helped him cope with his survivor’s guilt after the fatal attacks overseas.
In 2010, Herndon’s United States Marine Corps vehicle was blown up by a 50-pound improvised explosive device (IED) during the Invasion of Marjah in Afghanistan, the local outlet reports.
There were multiple blasts during the attack, but it was the third one, Herndon explained, that hit his Lava Dogs marine division and temporarily knocked him unconscious. When he woke up, Herndon said he felt immense gratitude.
“I still can’t believe it. It was one of the happiest moments of my life,” Herndon recalled to the Record-Courier. “It was a mixture of crying and laughing at the same time, knowing I had just survived something that was set out to kill me.”
Unfortunately, Herndon came to learn that the first blast, which involved a 400-pound explosive, killed his fellow marines Juarez and Ballard, as well as journalist Hamer.
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In the time since the tragedy, Herndon said he has attempted to return to his everyday life but still struggles with his PTSD.
“I went from being in a war zone one day to trying to live a normal life the next day,” he told the outlet. “We were going on three or more missions a day, constantly on guard and when I got back home, I was still in that mode. I never will be able to get over it, I don’t think, but I am coping. I am trying to get rid of the demons.”
He eventually turned to running, which has helped him channel his mental and emotional struggles, as well as the grief of losing Juarez, Ballard, and Hamer, into physical adrenaline.
Though he’s been running for quite some time, this year was the first time that he trained for a full marathon. Over the past two years, however, the veteran has run in two half marathons, finishing within the top 20 each time, Record-Courier reports.
And while he has certainly faced challenges while running (Monday’s incident is just one of many examples), Herndon said it’s his fallen friends that drive him to finish and get the job done.
“For some reason, I am still here… I feel like if I am not running, then I am doing something wrong with my life,” he told the outlet. “If I get a heat cramp while running or my feet hurt or I am getting exhausted, I just keep saying their names out loud to myself. They went through much worse, so I run for them and their families.”
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