'Pioneer' amputee runner competes in 48th marathon in Atlanta

The story of Tim Hurst is really just the same story, over and over again: Once he started running, he couldn't stop.

Hurst, a 57-year-old Utah marathoner, is like many other marathoners. He really enjoys running really long distances. He has driven across multiple states in a short amount of time to finish separate 26-mile courses. He has run in the heat and on the beach. Doctors have told him to run less, but he doesn't.

But Hurst, unlike many other marathoners, is an amputee runner with one leg. He runs on a blade, a kind of a prosthetic leg made of curved plastic and carbon.

"The human body and the human spirit are a lot stronger (than people think)," Hurst told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this week, days before he was set to travel from South Jordan to Atlanta for Sunday's Publix Georgia Marathon, in what will be his 48th marathon in his 43rd state.

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He's been skydiving, earned a black belt in karate and is very close to finishing 50 marathons in 50 states. He's one of the few amputee runners he's seen at his races, he said: "I'm kind of a pioneer here."

Hurst is traveling to Atlanta for this weekend's marathon all expenses paid, courtesy of the Metro Area Running Club, which was struck by his story. (MARC has never sponsored a runner in this way, board member Barbara Blackford told the AJC.)

"When I was a kid, I loved (running)," Hurst said. But back then no one did marathons, he said. His coach his first year of college had run one marathon — one his whole life — and "everyone just idolized him," Hurst said.

"He would talk about it, 'Oh yes I ran a marathon,' and we would just be in awe over this. And shortly after that I got in an accident."

For years after the 1981 motorcycle crash that took his leg, Hurst couldn't run, he said. He could barely walk.

He was on crutches. He got a prosthetic leg and learned to walk. He learned to bike. Eventually, he started running again, but never for as long as he wanted to, he said. The technology hadn't caught up to his desire.

Then one day, he said, he saw someone running with a blade. "Right away, I knew this was something unbelievably unique," Hurst said. His doctor agreed, and soon Hurst had a blade of his own.

His first full marathon was the Salt Lake City Marathon, about five years ago, he said. Hurst thought it would be "impossible," and his wife waited for him at the halfway point, in case he needed to stop.

"It was the hardest thing I think I have physically ever done ... I was absolutely dying at the end of it," Hurst said. "But I finished the whole thing without walking. It was great, and then something really terrible happened: I became obsessed with running, and then I ran another (marathon)."

Hurst, a devout Mormon, said faith has been a significant part of his journey, and helped dissolve the anger he felt after his amputation. He now shares his story with others.

"That's the thing that's like, 'Wow, he's an inspiration,' " Blackford said, "and it's the reason a lot of people are marathoners: We meet people like him."

"Now I have met so many wonderful people all over the country," Hurst said, adding, "Because of my faith, I really don't believe in coincidence." Where before he was afraid to show his prosthesis, now he loves to wear shorts.

That first year running marathons, Hurst said he ran 12 — one a month — and tries to plan out his entire year of marathon running in advance. He still has things undone on his "bucket list," such as hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and riding his bike from California to New York and hiking Mount Everest.

He's not stopping yet: "So far I haven't really found anything I can't do."

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