Man With Broken Vertebra Plans to Run in the Boston Marathon Monday

Tim Don, the Ironman king and Boston Marathon runner, says he "doesn't know any other way" of life.

tim don
Tim Don of Great Britain celebrates on his way to finishing third in the IRONMAN 70.3 Men's World Championship on September 10, 2017 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Getty Images for IRONMAN

Tim Don is an Ironman king and Boston Marathon runner. He is the embodiment of elite endurance athletes, writes The New York Times. At 40-years-old, Don knows what his body can take. He supports himself through his sponsors, who tend to give money when he wins, not just win he tries. Besides jobs during his childhood as a paperboy and lifeguard, Don has devoted his life to reaching the pinnacle of his sport. But in October, when Don was preparing for the Ironman world championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and went out for one last pre-race bike ride. He was struck by a utility vehicle and ended up with a hangman’s fracture, a broken C2 vertebra, like what you would find in someone who has died by hanging, The Times writes.

Don had a few options: He could wear a hard collar, but the fracture was very severe, so this wasn’t recommended. He could get surgery to fuse the vertebrae, which would be a quick fix and comfortable recovery, but it would end his athletic career. Or, he could get the halo, which is “like a medical torture device,” his doctor explained. “You take titanium pins and screw them into your skull, two in front and two in back, and attach them to metal bars, which attach to a bust that you wear for three months and that you can’t take off. It’s pure torture,” the doctor said, according to The Times. Don got the halo. And it was as terrible as the doctor said — when his wife tried to clean around the screws, Don almost passed out from the pain — but it worked. Six months after he had pins screwed into his skull, Don expects to run the Boston Marathon and expects to finish in about 2 hours and 50 minutes.

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