On January 28, 2002 the life of Marc Herremans changed drastically when he severed his spinal cord in a bike accident. Determined not to be beaten by this situation, he became the Ironman World Champion in 2006. Now the Belgian is inspiring folks again.
In the fall of 2001 Herremans surprised quite a few folks with his 6th place finish at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Herremans though wasn't surprised and actually saw this result as a sign that he was ready to get to the very top of the podium.
While out on a training ride with his coach Dirk van Gossum in Lanzarote a few months later, Herremans crashed on a downhill section and while tumbling down a rocky hillside, he severed his spinal cord between the 5th and 6th thoracic vertebrae.
"In a matter of seconds my life was ruined," Herremans was quoted in 17 Hours To Glory. "All I had ever worked for was to win Ironman Hawaii. Everything else was less important. Now, at only 27 years old, it was no longer possible. My life was over."
But his life wasn't over and after a few months of understandable denial and frustration about this scenario, Herremans went back to "work" and focused on returning to Kona, this time in a wheel chair. And return he did indeed and after 3rd place finishes in 2003 and 2004, and a runner-up spot in 2005 Herremans achieved his goal and won the Ironman World Championships in 2006.
Currently Marc Herremans is featured in a Johnny Walker advertising campaign with the tag line "When your reality changes, your dreams don’t have to." This will allow folks who previously have not heard about Herremans learn more about him and his amazing journey.
If you are wondering about Herreman's mountain man look in this video, the determined Belgian has indeed some other lofty plans on his mind. El Capitan is seemingly one of them. But you can find out more about him in the book "17 Hours To Glory, extraordinary stories from the Heart of Triathlon." His inspiring story is one of seventeen features in that book by Mathias Mueller and Timothy Carlson.