The glory of finishing a marathon. Some say, there's no other feeling like it.
“The power of the marathon is what they say and it really is. You can do anything you set your mind to,” runner Debora McLemore said.
First class Sgt. Jaques Keeslar couldn't agree more. “After the first five or six miles I was like what did I get myself into?” Kesslar said.
McLemore and Kesslar took part in the 13th annual San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon on Sunday. Kesslar, a wounded veteran who served in Iraq, covered the route through San Diego alongside some of the best racers in the world.
Former 5,000-meter world champion Richard Limo, who finished second in the Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year, cruised to a victory. Yulia Gromova, 36, of Russia won the women's race for the third consecutive year, covering the new 26.2 mile course in 2:27:38.
Four years ago, Kesslar was injured while serving in Iraq. Both his legs were amputated. “Four days later I was in Walter Reed and starting the recovery process,” he explained.
Sgt. Keeslar is one of dozens wounded veterans who took part in the marathon with the support of the Achilles Freedom Team.
Some of the veterans ran the full 26 miles. Just like Sgt. Keeslar, Sgt. David Rohde hand cycled his way through.
“I did it in one hour and 55 minutes,” he said. “I started getting into a grove and I pushed toward the end. I was really excited to finish the race.”
Sgt. Rohde injured his leg three months ago in Afghanistan, when a roadside bomb went off. He's been recovering ever since in San Diego. His physical therapist convinced him that the marathon would help him emotionally and physically.
“She helped me get motivated. She started me out with going 5 and 10 miles and then we worked up to 20 and last Tuesday we did our 25 mile mark,” Sgt. Rohde said.
Both veterans say they won't shy away from next year's marathon. In the meantime, they hope they can inspire young veterans who come back home wounded.
“It helps them get out there and realize that this is just a new life and a new way of doing things,” Sgt. Keeslar said. “You don't know if you can't do it until you get out there and really go out and try it.”