Veteran Inspires at The Boilermaker
Kali Fical was manning The Boilermaker water station at the corner of Genesee Street and Shepherd Place, as the final runner came through.
The athlete had paused to catch his breath, and the police escort that follows the final runner was close behind. The sun over his shoulder cast the shadow of the man and his prosthetic leg on the hot pavement in front of him. The sight was so moving and inspiring, she stopped to take a photograph. That photograph along with Kali's emotions, preserved in the caption has gone viral.
An injured veteran, the last person to come through our water table at Boilermaker 2017. After stopping to rest like this for a few moments, I will forever remember watching him look up at everyone clapping for him and seeing him tear up. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to be where I am in my life. It's people like this man who make you take a step back and realize how lucky you are each and every day. Thank you for your service and all you sacrificed to keep us safe and God Bless you.
As the photo spread throughout social media, others were equally moved and inspired.
Using another photo that showed the man's bib number, we discovered that his name is Darth Vader. Further searching led us to a 2015 story from the Daily Messanger: the former Eric Meier legally changed his name to Darth Vader in 2014. Vader owns Allegiant Fitness in Canandaigua, NY. Mr. Vader had his leg amputated earlier this year after a 1995 injury left him with very limited use of his leg, as reported by the Tough Mudder blog. He's also a cancer survivor, after fighting leukemia back in 2002.
He completed today's race in 3:26:48. On Facebook, Darth Vader's profile tells us that The Boilermaker is hardly the first physical feat he has accomplished: he's completed the Tough Mudder 77 times, a half-marathon 66 times, a triathlon 9 times and a full marathon 4 times. According to his profile, Mr. Vader is also a United States Marine veteran and a father.
Many of us feel the same way Kali does: this man reminds us of how much we have to be grateful for, and how much we can accomplish despite great obstacles. Thank you, Darth Vader.