Wayne County's 37th Annual Lake Cumberland 5 Miler – 5K – 1 Mile Fun Run held August 31 included more than just the usual group of walking and running enthusiasts interested in logging a few miles with friends to start their fall running season and help raise a few dollars for the school Cross Country and Track Program.
This year it meant a lot more to those 96 participants of all ages who showed up in the early morning hours at Memorial Park. This walk was more of a humbling experience when Retired Corporal Matthew Bradford, United States Marine Corps, and his wife and daughter, drove down from their home in Nicholasville to participate.
The "No Legs, No Vision, No Problem" celebrity had spoken at Mill Springs Christian Church the week before the run, when he learned about the upcoming local event.
"What an honor it was for Matthew and his family to travel down and help support the Wayne County Cross Country and Track Programs," said Wayne County Cross Country/ Track Coach Kevin Jones, a member of Mill Springs Christian Church. Jones was delighted when he learned the motivational speaker was coming back to Wayne County for the run.
"What an inspiration he is and continues to be," noted Coach Jones.
"I encourage everyone to look up this real hero…what a story he has and is living," explained Jones.
Bradford is the first blinded double amputee in history to re-enlist in the Marine Corps. He has overcome unbelievable obstacles and learned to adapt after being severely injured on January 18, 2007, just two months shy of wrapping up his deployment in Iraq.
Bradford has never let his injuries define who he is or what he can do, according to his bio. Each obstacle is a new challenge. Over the years, he has been inspired to share his story to motivate others through their own life challenges with his message of Just Walk. Even without Legs and Visions, you can still have No Problems.
"I believe God kept me alive for a reason, and that's to tell my story," exclaimed Bradford.
Bradford walked in the 3.1 mile run with several of the local student runners.
"It was definitely a first for us," said Wayne County High School Senior Jacob Morgan, a cross-country runner who was the overall 5K winner that day.
"He talked to us and walked at a pretty good pace….it was really cool," said Morgan. "We don't have any excuses not to be present in our daily life. Sometimes we don't even feel like getting out of bed, but he is blind and a double amputee and he is out motivating us. The fact that he would come down here and participate in our 5K was pretty awesome."
And if that was not enough, he and his wife had sold some of his Just Walk t-shirts at the event and later donated the proceeds to the running program. Some of those present were so touched by his participation and generosity that they could not even talk about the event afterwards without tearing up.
"It was just a classy thing to do," said Morgan. "Most of our runners are in FCA too, so we usually share part of our proceeds with that organization."
Following the walk/run an awards ceremony was held. Local runner and cross-country supporter Greg West kidded the retired marine by saying their guest of honor was Bradford's wife Amanda, who decided to bring Matthew with her.
West's son Nathan was the overall 5 Mile Winner in the competition.
Bradford's appearance at the run will not be forgotten anytime soon. It will be a memory for many years to come for the youngest kids to the oldest adults that participated.
"Coach Jones reminds us of Corporal Bradford at our practices to help motivate us," noted Morgan. He and his teammates are thankful to have learned Bradford's story that should propel them in their current sport season, as well as future seasons of life.