Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Interview with Ryon Lane

I recently sat down with Ryon Lane, otherwise known as the Runner with the Broken Neck. Ryon recently ran the NYC Marathon in November.  He ran that in 2:58:37. He did this just two years after breaking his neck in a beach accident.  As the year comes down to its final days, I felt it was as great time to share his wonderful story with my readers.

How did you break your neck?

On September 18, 2008, at a work beach event, I raced a co-worker into the surf, dove through a wave, and struck my head on something below the surface, presumably a sand bar. I've never been back to that beach in Santa Monica.

How severe was the injury?

My injury was very severe. I fractured my C-4 (cervical) vertebra in half, shattered all of the spiny processes attached to the back of the vertebra, and severely herniated the disk between my C-5 and C-6 vertebrae. During surgery, my surgeon inserted a cadaver femur crafted into the shape of a new C-4 vertebra into my neck to replace the destroyed one, replaced the herniated disc between the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae, and fused my cervical spine from C-3 to C-5 (including, obviously, my new C-4 "vertebra").

How close were you to being paralyzed?

After surgery, I was told the following by an attending surgeon fellow, which quickly brought to my attention how lucky I really was:
•    Over 90% of the people who incur the same C-4 injury suffer permanent neurological impairment (and are paralyzed from the waist down or worse)
•    Over 50% of the people who suffer such permanent neurological impairment are paraplegic (paralyzed from the neck down) for the rest of their lives
•    A great majority of the people who become paraplegic as a result of such an injury die within a few years of the injury due to complications and/or depression.

Were you a runner prior to the injury?

I was a "distance runner" in high school, both in track and XC, and was even one of my school's track captains my senior year. It's kind of funny to consider what somethat that age generally calls "distance" - 5K doesn't really even get me warmed up now. :)  I had too much fun my freshman year in college to focus on running much, and became a dad my sophomore year in college, so I never got a chance to compete at all collegiately. I ran, but never with very much focus or conviction or goals, after college, but it wasn't really until 2005, when I moved to Southern California, that I started to get involved with competitive running again.

NYC Marathon success

What were your PRs?

5K - 16:59 (high school)
10K - 36:17 (high school)
10M - 1:05:44 (first road race after breaking my neck)
13.1M - 1:38:14 (this is embarassing - from 2001 - and I clearly need to run another half to put a 1:20 on the board)
25K - 2:29:32 (little embarassing)
26.2M - 2:58:37 (first marathon after breaking my neck - NYC 2010)
50K - 4:56:15 (little embarassing - I'm going to run a sub-4 hr next month)

What races have you run since the injury (with times)?

3/14/10 - Backyard Burn 10 mile offroad race (first race since injury) - 1:20:01
4/11/10 - Cherry Blossom 10 miler - 1:05:44
11/7/10 - NYC Marathon - 2:58:37

How did you get hooked up with the Christopher Reeve Foundation?

Post-race with Alexandra Reeve Given
After my accident, I had developed somewhat of a case of survivor's guilt - knowing that there are so many people out there who weren't as fortunate as me after similar accidents and/or injuries bothered me for a long time. As I'm sure you can imagine, "Why me?" was a phrase that commonly circulated through my mind. About 6 months after my injury, I happened to randomly meet someone who was intimately involved with a group called "Life Rolls On", which is a nonprofit created by Jesse Billauer, a former surfer who broke his neck while surfing and is now paraplegic. LRO puts on multiple events per year on both coasts associated with their "They Will Surf Again" movement, which helps the paraplegic actually surf once again with the help of multiple volunteers.

I moved away from California shortly thereafter, and consequently was unable to be involved myself in LRO, but when I later heard that LRO had united with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, I wanted to know why, and I wanted to be involved somehow. What I discovered is that CDRF actually has a team, TEAM REEVE, who runs (or swims, or cycles, or all three) to raise funds to assist CDRF in funding spinal cord injury (SCI) research as well as quality of life grants. When I discovered the details, I was hooked. I made a friend at CDRF, Leigh Alspach, and I told her as early as February 2010 that I wanted to run the NYC Marathon in November 2010. And, as they say, the rest is history...sub-3 hour marathon and over $5,300 raised later.

I thought about asking Ryon what his plans were for the future.  Then I realized that not even the sky is the limit for him.  Here's wishing nothing but the best for him and that you too see what can be achieved when you Ignore The Impossible.

1 comment:

Navin Sadarangani said...

A very inspiring story. Thanks for putting it up.