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Perseverance--Gianni Poli of Italy won the 1986 New York Marathon in 2:11:06. On March 2, 2003, Mark Yatich of Kenya won the Los Angels Marathon in 2:09:52. To me, however, the real hero of both marathons was the man who finished dead last in both. He is fifty-seven year old Bob Wieland. In 1986 he finished the New York Marathon in a time of 98:48:17. His time in Los Angeles in 2003 was 172:45. On June 14, 1969, Bob lost both his legs in Vietnam. After his 2003 Los Angeles finish Bob gave this testimony, “This was not natural. This was supernatural. It was only done by the grace of God.” [--Associated Press, “Disabled Runner A Winner, Hands Down,” (New York: The Associated Press), 09 March 2003.].

Bob was a combat medic in the twenty-fifth infantry division serving in Vietnam in 1969. In attempting to save a fallen buddy, he stepped on an 82-mm mortar round designed to demolish tanks. He sent the following note to his parents: “June fourteenth, nineteen sixty-nine. Cu Chi, Vietnam. Dear Mom and Dad. I’m in the hospital. Everything is going to be OK. The people here are taking care of me. Love, Bob. P. S. I think I lost my legs.” [-http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/advertising/radiospot/2004/040426_wiel]. Between 1982 and 1986 Bob walked across America on his arms in three years, eight months, and six days. He is the only double amputee to complete the Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, without a wheelchair. To do so he had to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then complete a 26.2 mile marathon, all three events consecutively and non-stop. Our late President Ronald Regan proclaimed, “Truly, Bob Wieland is an inspiration for all of us.” [--Associated Press, “Disabled Runner A Winner, Hands Down,” (New York: The Associated Press), 09 March 2003.]. Bob Wieland is truly a prime example of perseverance.

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