Triathlete John Carson
Finishing an Ironman triathlon, which consists of a a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon, is a remarkable feat for any athlete. But 30-year-old John Carson, who will retire from the sport after this weekend’s Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is no ordinary athlete.
Two years ago, Mr. Carson was training on his bicycle near his home on Long Island in New York when a sport utility vehicle smashed into him from behind. He remembers fading in and out of consciousness and waking up in the intensive care unit as a quadriplegic.
“When I was a younger guy, to me the thought of being paralyzed, I was the first person to say I’d rather be dead,’’ Mr. Carson said. “I remember waking up in the I.C.U., my wife being there, my mom and my family, and being so thankful for being alive.’’
Doctors offered little hope for recovery. The accident had injured his cervical spine. But within a week he began regaining limited use of his arms and hands, a development he says confounded his doctors. Still, Mr. Carson said doctors gave him little chance of regaining the use of his legs.
And, what John is doing for other spinal cord injury victims is commendable.
Earlier this year he ran with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation at the Boston Marathon, finishing the race in 4 hours 40 minutes 6 seconds. He has raised nearly $20,000 for the foundation through his racing efforts.
This weekend he is taking on the Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, where he hopes to raise at least $10,000 for spinal cord research. But it will also be his last Ironman.
Mr. Carson’s injuries have changed the biomechanics of his running stride, putting more wear and tear on his hips and joints. More important, he says, is his desire to devote more time to his wife, possibly start a family and spend time volunteering to support others who have suffered spinal cord injuries.
“Racing used to be the most important thing in my life, but sometimes an accident like this makes you reprioritize,’’ said Mr. Carson. “This is a very selfish sport. I’ve done enough. That five or six hours I spend on a bike Saturday mornings, the run on Sunday, I want to take that time I’d be spending out there and put it to better use.’’
Mr. Carson says he’s not giving up his athletic pursuits entirely and may take part in bike races or other events, including a possible marathon swim around Manhattan. This weekend, you can track Mr. Carson’s progress by following racer No. 1294 through IronmanLive.com.
Again, what an inspiration!