SOUTH JORDAN — With a time of six hours and 19 minutes, Tim Hurst's finish in the recent Salt Lake Marathon was a tad off the current world record of 2:03:59 held by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.
But let's see Gebrselassie run one on one leg.
Hurst, a 51-year-old computer technician who lives in South Jordan with his wife, Lynette, and their seven children, lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident in California 30 years ago.
In the years since he has owned a number of prosthetic legs, each one technologically superior to the last one. For the Salt Lake race he strapped on an S-shaped graphite model, hoped for the best, and almost six and a half hours later got what he wished for: utter exhaustion.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done," he remembers. "I've never been so tired."
Or, as it turned out, so rewarded.
Word spread fast of the one-legged man's feat. Accolades poured in. Among the biggest, money-wise, came from the San Diego-based restaurant company Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill. They awarded Tim first prize of $5,000 in their "Deliver a Dream" contest.
A family friend had nominated Tim for the prize, explaining that he is the kind of person who has a habit of not only setting lofty — some would say impossible — goals but then actually achieving them.
He'd use his winnings, the nomination went on to say, to turn his basement into a top-notch karate studio for youngsters.
For $5 a lesson, Tim — who also happens to be a black belt — teaches neighborhood kids karate in his spare time.
"Now," he says, "I can have the greatest basement karate studio ever."
Even two weeks after the race, he says this with a high degree of incredulity — still stunned that anyone would give him $5,000 for completing something he felt lucky to just be a part of, period.
Tim isn't the kind of person who under-appreciates things.
"There was a time when I took things for granted," he says. "Growing up in California, I can't believe how irresponsible I was, how badly I treated people."
But then, one day on his regular commute to L.A. Valley College when he was 21, came the collision that altered everything.
A garbage truck driven by an illegal alien who was legally drunk hit his motorcycle head-on. His left hip was broken in 14 places, his tailbone was shattered, his little finger was gone.
Three months and nine surgeries later he woke up and asked, "Is it Wednesday?"
His mom said, "No, it's August."
More surgeries followed, along with the doctor's prognosis that walking again was, at best, a remote possibility.
He went home in a wheelchair, unable to move, a captive audience who watched as his insurance ran out, his fiancee called off their engagement and his parents divorced.
Then, one glorious day, something good happened: he felt his big toe move.
For months he willed his legs back to life, his right one anyway; the left one was beyond saving.
As his mobility improved inches at a time he made what would later be called a "bucket list" — things he wanted to do when he could walk again.
No. 1 on the list was sky-dive. He managed that on his 50th birthday.
No. 2 was run a marathon.
He warmed up for the Salt Lake Marathon by running numerous runs at shorter distances, including three half marathons. But on race day he still had never run more than 15 miles at once.
"At 15 miles I hit a wall; I thought I was done," he says.
It took him almost four hours after that to finish, the prosthesis talking back to him with every stride.
He didn't refuse to quit because there was $5,000 waiting for him at the finish line. He had no idea of any such thing.
He refused to quit because that's what Tim Hurst does.
Because life isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.
Oh, and by the way, if you were wondering what's the third thing on his list.
No. 3, climb Mount Everest.
"I have no idea how," says Tim, grinning. "But I'll figure it out. Maybe I'll just get a ticket to Tibet. From there it should be easy."
Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to [email protected]