[leadin]We are on the ‘Balls to the Wall’ obstacle at the Arizona Tough Mudder. The crowd erupts as the man with the prosthetic leg and one arm makes a burst toward the top.[/leadin]
Fifteen feet off the ground, Noah Galloway balances on a muddy 2×4. His technique is simple: plant a foot on the board, grab a knot, then pull to reach higher on the rope.
Galloway stabilizes, a grip on the rope with the 8 inches he has of a left arm. His prosthetic, a swoop of carbon, squirms for purchase, kicking over the wall.
Tough Mudder and Noah are now in partnership promoting the event. You may recognize him from “Dancing with the Stars,” the cover of Men’s Health, or the countless motivational speeches he gives.
Last weekend, GearJunkie ran the Arizona Tough Mudder alongside Noah. He has already been an inspiration to many people and, after we saw his perseverance first hand, has inspired us, too.
Noah Galloway: Life Of Service
Noah’s story starts almost 15 years ago in Birmingham, Alabama, with the terrorist attack on 9/11. He says that day changed his life. He enlisted in the army because he felt a duty to his country.
Noah was three months into his second deployment when, on December 19th, 2005, an IED struck his Humvee. He wouldn’t wake up until six days later on Christmas day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. Like so many veterans, he struggled for the first few years after the accident, not wanting to accept his new life.
Then, in 2009, while looking in the mirror at his house, his kids sitting on the couch in the living room, it hit him. He had been focusing on what was taken from him and not what he had left. He still had the opportunity to be a role model for his children.
Turning To Fitness
It was then that he made the commitment to turn things around. He joined a local 24 hour gym and because he was embarrassed about his injuries, would go in at 2am. After awhile he started to go in the day and thrived off of the community of support from people.
It’s that same feeling that drove Noah to his first adventure race in 2010. Since then he has racked up countless races and turned around a life on the border of depression. He is now a personal trainer, motivational speaker, and he has his own charity.
On The Course
I met Noah before racing the Tough Mudder event in Arizona. It had been two years since his last event, and he hadn’t put many miles on his “race leg” recently.
Two miles into the race his leg broke. The bolts fastening his blade to the upper connection had come loose. We were about a quarter mile from the next water station to get a tool and fix it. Noah attempted to hop, but after a hundred feet of that he jumped on my back and I ran him into the next stop.
He also fatigued his calf so much throughout the day that it would lock up and cramp on him. At one point he literally hit the ground mid stride, unable to balance himself with another leg. Each obstacle took him at least twice the energy that it took me.
The weather for the day didn’t do us any favors. The sun was blocked out by clouds, rain fell intermittently, and the temperature hovered around 65. Jumping in and out of water obstacles sent Noah into a shiver. On top of that, 40mph wind gusts and hail pelted us toward the end.
Along the way, it was amazing to see the encouragement Noah received with the crowds cheering him on. He seems to thrive on that energy. At the end of the day you could feel the pride Noah felt completing the event. He spent time with a few dozen people asking for photos and chatted even longer with event promoters and participants.
His story reminds us that we can turn a terrible situation into a positive one. Choosing an outlet such as fitness, adventure, or simply getting outdoors, has incredible power to transform.