Quadruple Amputee Finishes Race With New Prostheses
As Gary Miracle crossed the finish line of the Tailgate 2-Miler on Sunday morning, the look of pain on his face was evident. So was the look of determination followed by relief.
Tears streamed down his face as dozens of people cheered, hugged him, took photos and marveled at what he had just accomplished. Miracle, who lost his arms and legs to a blood infection in December 2019, finished the two-mile competition in 49 minutes, 22 seconds, after having received prosthetics in June.
"It’s humbling," he said, breathless and physically exhausted. "I’m told I’m a motivation and inspiration every day. I don’t feel that way. This is just my life. I’m just fighting to live and figure out what it means to be alive. To have people rally around me, link arms with me, carry me, hold me, is just unbelievable."
Miracle crossed as he was determined to do, upright, supported by his sister Jennifer Falcone and his father, Gary Miracle Sr.
After it was finished, he took the time to speak to friends and strangers alike, to be photographed, to answer questions. Only after they finished did Miracle and his family head to post-race festivities. "I'm thankful that God has given me the ability to still do this after all we’ve been through as a family, ” Miracle said. “Thankful for the village of people who showed up to cheer me the whole way. Thankful to be part of the community. I wouldn’t have been able to do this today without you guys."
Brevard community rallies around Miracle
More than 600 people completed in the Tailgate 2-Miler, both in-person and as virtual racers. Many spoke with Miracle before he got started, asking to see how he was feeling about what he was about to undertake. “We’ll see,” Miracle told one of them, grinned and repeated the line with which he is associated worldwide: “Say I won’t.” Then he did.
Miracle slipped out of his motorized wheelchair, onto the blades that replace his lower legs and took his place among hundreds of other participants in the two-mile race around the grounds of The Avenue Viera.
Sixty-nine people wearing “Say I Won’t” shirts did the race with him in Viera, and 185 others raced as part of his team, virtually. Marko Cheseto, who had both lower legs amputated in 2011 and set the world record for a double amputee in the marathon (two hours, 42 minutes, 24 seconds) started with him, finished before Miracle and ran it again to cross with him.
“I had to come here to support Gary,” said Cheseto, a native of Kenya who now works for Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates of Orlando, from which Miracle received his new lower legs in June.
Learning to use prosthetics is hard
It takes time to learn to walk on a pair of springy blades, and Miracle, a member of Rockledge High School’s state championship 4x800 relay team in the 1999-2000 school year and youth sports coach in Rockledge for years, is relearning to run.
When it was suggested that June to August is a too short period for such training, Miracle was undaunted. Run he did, in his orthotists’ facility and elsewhere. Still, Sunday’s event was particularly difficult because he has an open wound on his left knee, the result of friction, he said. “And blades don’t have heels, so it’s something to get used to,” he added as he went along.
Miracle the top-notch dad
He did it all with great good cheer, chatting with supporters and others along the way, and making sure his children — Johana, 17; Asher, 10; Walter, 8; and Henry, 7 — were where they were supposed to be and did what they were supposed to do.
Ever being the dad/coach, he was on them: “You need to use the safety pins. You pin the number to your shirt. You can’t be in the race without a number on your shirt.” His kids have become favorites too; Walter drew cheers as he sprinted to the line, ahead of his father. Henry, the youngest, completed the race in 28:33, then went back to meet his dad.
A miracle he is still here
No one’s name is more apt than that of this Rockledge man, a lifelong runner who lost his arms and legs just below his knees and elbows as the result of a blood infection contracted in 2019. After 117 days in an Orlando hospital, Miracle returned home with hope. A person with elbows and knees would be able to use prosthetics.
He was going to run again, he insisted.
A former sales professional who once worked with and has remained close friends with members of Mercy Me, the contemporary Christian music group, Miracle became the inspiration for its hit song “Say I Won’t,” and a symbol of faith and determination everywhere.
“I could have lost my (hands and feet), but I could have lost everything,” he said earlier. “Now I get emails from people across the world, people who want to tell their stories, and the most humbling part is that God has kept me in this position, a position in which I am able to speak and listen.”