Man who was told he may not walk again after bicycle accident finishes Akron Marathon
4:18 PM, Sep 28, 2018
2:09 PM, Sep 29, 2018
AKRON, Ohio - Alan Hemminger laid motionless in a ditch filled with sewage water off State Route 162 in Copley. He knew his neck was broken and he could barely breathe.
"All I thought was, 'This is it. It's a beautiful Saturday morning and this is it for me. I'm gonna miss my wife. I'm gonna miss my children.'" Hemminger said.
The avid cyclist had been charging down a hill with a group of friends on June 11, 2011 when he saw a pothole. He made a split-second decision to jump over it. He didn't make it.
"And what happened was the front wheel came down sideways in that hole."
Hemminger went flying over the handlebars and hurtling towards a street sign. His head hit the sign's post, knocking off his helmet.
"I knew immediately me neck was broken. There was no doubt in my mind," he said.
A doctor happened to drive by and offered assistance to Hemminger until paramedics rushed him to Akron City Hospital.
He also suffered broken bones in his skull, a compressed spinal cord and a brain injury.
Doctors delivered potentially devastating news to Hemminger's wife, Katheryn.
"They told her that they did not think that I would walk again."
Hemminger refused to believe that was a possibility. A ski instructor and a workout warrior for most of his life, he started a list of three athletic goals to accomplish. 1) Ski again 2) Finish a challenging bicycle ride up a mountain 3) Run the Akron Marathon.
Remarkably, five days after his accident Hemminger walked out of the hospital.
"The nurses said I was the first patient that they had seen released directly from intensive care."
Hemminger was able to cross off the first goal on his list in January of 2012 when he skied again.
A year later, Chris Kraszewski brought his nephews to Boston Mills for skiing lessons and Hemminger turned out to be their instructor. A quick friendship between Hemminger and Kraszewski was formed.
In 2017, Kraszewski helped Hemminger accomplish his second goal when the duo completed Assault on Mt. Mitchell, a 102.7-mile ride up a mountain in South Caroline and North Carolina.
For the past few months, the friends have been training for the Akron Marathon to accomplish Hemminger's third goal. They have been pounding the pavement, pushing each other through hours of running, including a 21-mile jaunt.
Hemminger, 61, hopes to cross the finish line in five hours.
"It helps me close the chapter on what happened to me back in 2011," Hemminger said.
Kraszewski has also never run a marathon but said he was inspired to run Akron because of Hemmingers' grit and determination.
"If you know Alan, then you would know. "There's no one like him. He's just a great man and it's really cool," Kraszewski said.
Hemminger still experiences occasional seizures due to his brain injury and still does not have feeling in his left arm due to the accident.
But his challenges will not stop him from joining 10,000 other people who will run either the marathon, half marathon or marathon relay on Saturday at 7 a.m.
Reaching that milestone, seven years in the making will be especially meaningful, but Hemminger stressed he wouldn't have reached any of his dreams without the support of his wife and Kraszewski.
When he crosses that finish line Saturday afternoon in Canal Park, his message to others will be simple.
"If I can do it, you can do it."
UPDATE: Hemminger completed Saturday's marathon with a time of 5 hours and 26 minutes.