Micah Herndon was going to finish the Boston Marathon, even if it meant crawling across the line on his hands and knees. So when his legs locked up with several miles to go, that’s exactly what he did.
As WBZ reports, the Marine veteran from Tallmadge, Ohio served in Afghanistan. He decided to run the marathon in honor of the friends who he lost there.
As Herndon told the Record-Courier, while in Afghanistan, an improvised explosive device (IED) hit a vehicle in his convoy, taking the lives of Matthew Ballard and Mark Juarez, two of Herndon’s close friends. The explosion also killed Rupert Hamer, a British journalist their unit was protecting.
The marine would go on to survive two IED explosions himself. He told the Record-Courier:
“For some reason, even after being hit twice, I am still here. My family was my strength while I was gone. After things happen, those emotions sit in you and it makes you realize how important family truly is.”
After returning home again, Herndon struggled to adjust to normal life.
“I went from being in a war zone one day to trying to live a normal life the next day,” he told the Record-Courier. “We were going on three or more missions a day, constantly on guard and when I got back home, I was still in that mode. I never will be able to get over it, I don’t think, but I am coping. I am trying to get rid of the demons.”
That’s when he took up running. He started out running just a few miles a day to begin with before eventually increasing the distance as the days went on.
In 2017, Herndon ran in his first half-marathon. Soon, he set his sights on running his first full 26.2-mile race.
Herndon confessed that he was shocked when he qualified for the 2019 Boston Marathon. But he doesn’t run for himself; he runs for the friends he lost in Afghanistan:
“I run in honor of them. They are not here anymore. I am here, and I am able. I am lucky to still have all my limbs. I can still be active. I find fuel in the simple idea that I can run. Some cannot.”
Ballard, Juarez, and Hamer are part of every step he takes in every race. According to ABC 13, Herndon has put their names on the tags on his shoes. And he repeats their names to himself as he runs.
“I say their last names out loud while I’m listening to my music,” Herndon told WBZ. “I just repeat: ‘Ballard, Hamer, Juarez. Ballard, Hamer, Juarez.'”
The three are also Herndon’s way of working through the physical pain that comes with running. He told the Record-Courier:
“If I get a heat cramp while running or my feet hurt or I am getting exhausted, I just keep saying their names out loud to myself. They went through much worse, so I run for them and their families.”
Herndon needed every bit of inspiration and grit to get through the race on Wednesday.
Near mile 22 of the marathon, Herndon’s legs locked up. He told ABC 13 it was “the worst pain I’ve ever experienced running.”
But he didn’t give up. Herndon continued the race, crawling the last miles on his hands and knees. At one point, he lowered himself to his stomach and dragged himself forward with his arms.
After the Marine veteran crossed the finish line, he was lifted into a wheelchair and given medical attention.
Though he’s disappointed that he didn’t have a faster time, Herndon isn’t discouraged by his finish. He told WBZ he plans to keep competing:
“The pain that I was going through is nothing compared to the pain that they went through.”