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The official website of Paul Franklin: a father, veteran, activist, motivational speaker, and proud Canadian.

Monday, October 25, 2010

From i RUN Magazine 2009


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Paul Franklin: iRun to see how far I have come.

In his own words, Master Corporal Paul Franklin tells iRunNation about his journey as a runner, before and after the bomb blast that changed his life

Under attack: “My truck jumped about 10 metres in the air”

I’ve had two tours in Afghanistan and I was on my second tour, five-and-a-half months into it. I was a medic. My other job was to be a driver. A lot of our role was diplomacy and moving diplomats around.

It was January 15th, 2006, and I was driving diplomat Glyn Berry. We were in a four-vehicle convoy and as we were driving into the city of Kandahar, we were attacked. He hit me on the right-rear of the vehicle. That detonated seven 122-milimetre rockets.
ahead of my leg.

“I knew I had to stay awake and I had to stay conscious.”

I was trying to prevent myself from going into shock. I knew I had to stay awake and I had to stay conscious. I hoped that someone would come and help me out. One of my colleagues, Jake Petton, put a tourniquet on me.

We would always teach each other skills and two days earlier, Jake had asked to learn how to do a tourniquet. We went over the skills. I guess you’d call it a refresher course. What saved my life was the fact that it was very current in his head.

The long road to recovery: “It doesn't matter how long it takes, one day I would like to walk my son to school.”

Part of what I was thinking when I was going through all the rehab was that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, one day I would like to walk my son to school. Even if it’s to college. My son Simon is eight years old now. I blew up in January and I walked for the first time in March.

On May 18, just after I got out of hospital, I walked my son to school. It took 45 minutes for 600 metres.

It was not a fast run but a good run. It was just as exhausting as a run.

In the military, everybody’s a runner. Most people don’t like it, but I do.

I’ve done a lot of long-distance running. I’ve been in one marathon and four Mountain Mans. In a Mountain Man, you start with a 35-pound pack and you run 32k. You carry sandbags, so it makes the weight 75 pounds. You do that for 3k. Then you hop in the canoe and you go 10k down the river. You get out of the canoe and it’s 7k back to the finish line. Your legs are all stiff because you’ve been in the canoe.

I ran the Dubai Marathon in 2005. I didn’t train for it. The first half was really, really good. The second half was really, really horrible.

The first 4k for me were always the toughest. After that there’s a sense of freedom with it. It was always a strange thing: this knowledge that you’re doing something more than other people can do. When you’ve finished it, you’ve accomplished something to be proud of.  I remember the first time I ran 20k, I was so proud of myself. We took a week off and then the next week we ran 30k and I thought, 'I can do it.'  And then we ran 40k, and I was ecstatic. I ran 40k. Only one per cent of the population ever runs 20k.

“The moment I realized that I could never run again was the moment I realized that the person I used to be was dead and gone.” 

After I lost both legs, I wanted to run after I got out of the hospital. That was my goal. I had it in my head that I had to learn to run. I went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I saw these young kids, 19 to 20 years old with the cheetah running legs. And I saw how much effort it took. I thought, 'you know what, I don’t think I’m going to be able to do it.'

I wanted to recover to the person I was. What I discovered was that person was dead. The moment I realized that I could never run again was the moment I realized that the person I used to be was dead and gone.

“I pick my challenges a little differently now.”

I had to change my attitude. I had to think, now I have to do other challenges. If I want to step up to the plate and do other things I have to do it in a wheelchair or with prosthetics. I pick my challenges a little differently now. I hand bike. I walk when I can.

Being a double-above-the-knee amputee, I’m in a very difficult position. I use my legs to do speeches and for transportation and special events. It’s not a big deal for me to not wear the legs every day. The wheelchair is part of my life. But I also have the prostheses. As a guy, it allows me to pee standing up, which is an amazing thing.

Anyone who’s disabled has a very, very hard time being fit. You’re basically taking in 3000 calories a day like any normal Westerner does. So you’ve got to burn that 3,000 calories or you’re in real trouble.

I noticed that my body began to change because I focused on the wheelchair stuff. Instead of having a runner’s body, I’ve got more of a wheelchair body.

“I definitely think of myself as a runner...I'll always be a runner.”

The Army Run was the first race. I’m not sure if I’ll do that again. Being in a wheelchair is training enough. There's so much strength needed to just get yourself around. It’s pretty shocking sometimes just how much effort this whole thing is.

For me it was nice to get back into running. Even though it’s in a wheelchair I still consider it running. It was a feeling that I was back into running. It felt like I was doing something productive. It was definitely worth the trip.

The whole idea of that crowd and how everybody is trying to be their best, whatever condition they have, whether it’s shin splints or no legs. It was neat to have people run for me and support the idea of wounded soldiers. It was very cool. It was very good to see that the Canadian Forces are giving something to all the guys.

I definitely think of myself as a runner. That allowed me to be the person I am today. My runner’s body, being fit, is what saved my life in Kandahar. If I had not been fit, I would not have been able to recover as quickly.

I’ll always be a runner. Whether it be (with) a wheelchair or a mountain bike, it will always be a piece of me.

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