In the 1932 Summer Olympics, the whole stadium was made speechless upon the sight of a crippled athlete among the others in the pit. The young man that silenced the crowd was none other than Glen Cunningham.
In a little country schoolhouse in Kansas State, USA studied a seven-year-old boy named Glenn Cunningham, who could often be seen arriving early to school to start the fire to warm up the room before the arrival of his teacher and fellow classmates.
On one unfortunate morning, as the students arrived at the school, they found their classroom was engulfed in flames. Panic broke out as they realized that Glenn was still inside. They promptly set to work to save Glenn from the flames and managed to drag their unconscious friend out of the burning building. Almost the whole lower half of his body was burnt and he was taken to a nearby county hospital in a state of near-death.
From his hospital bed, the little boy faintly overheard the doctor telling his mother that he would surely die in the next few days because the fire had destroyed almost all of his body from the belly down to his feet. But the little boy did not want to die. He determined to carry on at all costs. And, to the amazement of the medical staff, he made it through.
Upon overcoming the most critical early moments of his recovery, he again heard the doctor and his mother speaking quietly. The doctor told her that the flesh in the lower part of his body had been terribly damaged by the fire, therefore death was at this point preferable because he was doomed to live the rest of his life as a cripple.
Once again, the brave boy made up his mind that he would not be a handicapped child, he would walk, run, and dance like any other kid. But unfortunately, his body from the waist down remained motionless.
Ultimately, he was released from the hospital. Every day his mother would massage his little legs but he still didn’t feel anything, and he had yet to regain complete control of his lower body. Yet, his determination to walk again was stronger than ever.
One sunny morning, when his mother wheeled him into the yard to get some fresh air, he picked himself up and threw himself from the wheelchair, only to fall heavily onto the ground. He crawled, and pulled himself across the grass, dragging his legs behind him. He aimed at reaching the fence that surrounded the house. Then with great effort, he raised himself up, clinging onto the fence and stood up.
He started to do this every day, striving to walk day-by-day step-by-step along the line of the fence. Soon, beside the fence lay a smooth path, worn out by his efforts. There was nothing in his mind other than the strong desire to live on his own two feet.
Ultimately, thanks to his mother’s care, his iron persistence, and resolute determination, he began to gradually stand up, then walk haltingly with help, then walk by himself and finally and most miraculously, run. Strangely so, he came to realize that running hurt him far less than walking.
When he was twelve years old, he went back to school. He would jog to school regularly and when he raced, he would beat every other athlete of his age. He ran for the joy of running and finally, as an adult, he ran as a professional athlete in some of the best-known stadiums in the world to the sound of the cheers of millions of fans.
This is the inspiring story of Glenn Cunningham, the man with so many nicknames… ‘Kansas Ironman’, ‘Kansas Flyer’, ‘Iron Horse of Kansas’, ‘Elkhart Express’.
In 1934, he set the world record for the mile run at 4:06.8, which previously had not been beaten for three years.
“I always believed that I could walk normally, and that was the truth. Now I will run, and run faster than anyone else!”, Glenn said after setting the world record.
Instead of using his fame to make a great deal of money, he developed his interest in helping others. He and his wife opened the Glenn Cunningham Youth Ranch to raise over 10,000 foster children.
He always had a positive attitude and a strong religious faith. His favorite Bible verse was Isaiah 40:31: ‘But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’.
Glenn Cunningham made the miraculous recovery from a hopelessly crippled boy to a star athlete holding world records at the Olympics for the USA. These admirable achievements could never have been attained without the extreme will-power and faith of Glenn himself.
Glenn Cunningham was honored at Madison Square as one of the greatest American athletes of the 20th century. He died on March 10th, 1988, in Menifee, Arkansas, USA, at the age of 80.