Dave Cullen's Blog

Conclusive Evidence of My Existence

Dave Cullen

Dave Cullen
New York, New York, USA
June 03
Written for NY Times, W Post, Slate, Salon, Daily Beast. Publisher Twelve (Hachette)
An expanded paperback edition of my book COLUMBINE came out March 1, 2010. Links to the book and my bio below: http://www.davecullen.com/columbine.htm

Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 7, 2010 5:00PM

The NYC Marathon on one leg

Rate: 9 Flag

Congratulations, John Devine. Congratulations on completing the New York City Marathon. And thank you for being hero today.

I was worn out this morning and ready for a day of rest. I settled in to watch the climax of the NYC marathon on the TV, even though the finish line was one block and three avenues from my couch. I could hear the helicopters through the TV and the window. I got up and put on a pair of shoes. (And actual pants. Haha.)

I'm so glad I went. I'm glad I took the long way home. Something told me to turn back and check out the exit near the finish line.

That's where a man asked me to take his picture. He wanted his daughters to see him after he finished the race.

I didn't even notice the crutches at first, much less the missing leg. I was busy with my own stuff, and it wasn't until I tried to frame him, that I said, Oh.

I'm not sure whether it was out loud. 

John rode through all five boroughs in his wheelchair today. He completed the marathon in 2 hours and roughly 24 minutes, a pretty incredible time.

I spent the afternoon marveling at the 45,000 people who came out to tackle this course today. Pretty impressive for anyone. It's something I will never accomplish.

(I've got eight sibling and nearly all of them have done one of these, or at least a half. My niece, too. Incredible. I'm proud of them, too.)

And look at all these guys who did it in their wheelchairs. Man.

I have a special place in my heart for amputees, because I lived with them for about five months at Walter Reed. I was the only broke-back in the ortho PT room every day. I met wonderful people there, at all different stages in their recovery. Watching them deal with their loss so gracefully gave me the encouragement I needed to face mine.
Wheelchair competitors, in front of The Dakota
I have no idea what John went through after his right leg was torn off his body in Vietnam. I missed that part of the story. He gave me a few details. He was an airborne soldier in the Marine Corps. A mortar round took him down in Quang Nam Province. They called it Charlie Ridge.

All I got a brief glimpse of was the after picture. Forty-two years later, John is looking pretty good.

It happened April 26, 1968. He did not require a pause when I asked how long it had been. Since then, John has completed about fifteen marathons. Enough to lose count. He's done a few other things, too. Raised two daughters. He's quite proud of them.

(Pic: Near the finish. Second place?
Maybe; I got confused.)

John's got a wife who loves him, too. She has traveled across the country to be with him for marathons before, but this morning she stayed home on Long Island, in Massapequa, where it was warm.

"My wife's a couch potato," John said. "This like agony for her."

It was rough for him for awhile, too. He was up at 5:30, down to Staten Island, where the temperature hovered just above freezing. There was a lot of waiting, huddling to keep in body heat.

I met John about six and a half hours and 26.2 miles later. He had worked quite an appetite. He kept munching down his apple while I snapped his picture. He could hardly have been happier. Me too.

John was generous with me when I came back to get his name and his story, and another picture. He took his medal out. Amazing. He earned that sucker.

He leaned back against one of my favorite buildings, The Dakota. And he smiled.

Thanks for sharing your story with me, John. Thanks for the inspiration. It will ride with me a long time.

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Jeese Louise, Dave.......this is a sublime post. We keep hearing about folks losing their jobs and their houses, horrific stories.

But what if those same folks had the types of losses that you've described here?

Jobs and houses have beenlost, to no fault of their own, but honestly, to be able to prevail in this type of contest puts every one to shame.

They fought and won, and everyone needs to celebrate the winning spirit. To embrace it, to change it up, and to find a way to survive against all of the odds.

I love love love you for posting this!
Thanks, Ginny. I couldn't ask for a nicer comment than that.

Meeting John yesterday was its own reward.
Dave, a great story here about John Devine and all that he has been through during his life! There is a huge sense of determination and encouragement here that goes to the head of the class!
What an inspiring post to start my week with. Thanks so much; these guys (and women) who embark on the marathon with all that they have (HEART!) prove that what they don't have is, at times like this, of no matter.
thanks, dirn. i just got a nice email from john about it.
What an incredible man and an inspiration. If only we could all be like him--grateful for the good in our lives and not complaining or letting anything get in the way of what we want to accomplish.
Touching behind-the-scenes look. I was in NYC and debated watching in person instead of on TV. Wish I had, especially after reading this.
Thanks, Karin.

Lea, I know. I almost didn't go. And I happened to be really close.

I might not have gone either, but I was debating, so I posted on facebook that I might, and I got instant and overwhelming encouragement to go. So I put on my shoes. (Not THAT hard. haha.)
Thanks for this inspirational post.
Lovely, and much needed. Thank you.
I saw him at mile 7 in Brooklyn! Very nice post. Rated!
bravely carrying on. nice.

thanks, everyone.

lisa, do you know him, or just recognized him from the pic?
I just recognized him from the picture, Dave. I got to my usual spot early to watch the front runners and wait for my step father, who ran his 32nd consecutive NYC marathon. The Achilles folks were easy to spot.
I volunteered at the marathon yesterday as a Red Cross spotter keeping an eye out for people who were injured or ill so I saw pretty much everyone who went past. The ones who impressed me the most were the Achilles participants. Even at mile 18, they were still going strong. People who were blind, people using crutches or wheelchairs, people missing one or both legs but still literally running, it was incredible.

Thanks for introducing us to John. It's a real honor to "meet" him! Please send him my congratulations for a race well done!