Cedric King doesn’t carpe the diem so much as juice the bugger, like an orange, for every last drop of sunshine.
Thursday, Chicago. Friday, Atlanta. Saturday and Sunday, Denver. It takes a special soul to run the hamster’s wheel without any legs.
“It’s crazy that you say that. I’ve been thinking about that same sentiment for the last couple months,” King, a retired U.S. Army Ranger, said via Zoom, from his car, between errands down in Georgia.
“I lived a great life before. But if I would’ve told myself, 10 years ago, ‘Hey, you’re going to lose a pair of legs, but you’re going to have the best 10 years of your life,’ I wouldn’t have believed it, man. I wouldn’t have believed it.”
At least 11,000 runners are expected to take part in the Colfax Marathon on Sunday, back in its spring slot for the first time since the pandemic. Every bib has a story. King’s got about 50.
On July 25, 2012, while on a second tour of Afghanistan, he stepped on an IED. The resulting explosion took both of King’s legs, as well as a chunk of his right hand and right arm.
Seven months later, he was fitted for running prosthetics. In April 2013, he started running with them.
Nine years later, he’s logged 17 marathons and another handful of half-marathons. He’s written a book. He’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Cam Newton, Floyd Mayweather and Chris Berman. He’s met presidents and CEOs.
“If I had a choice, I probably would’ve been too afraid to lose a pair of legs to gain all this,” said King, who’s slated to take part in the Colfax relay events Sunday morning in partnership with the nonprofit Achilles International, guided by Cigna regional vice president John Roble.
“I would’ve been terrified. I would’ve been, ‘Nah, I’m good.’ Because I wouldn’t have understood that I would have become a better person … because the loss of your legs required you to be so much of a better human being. You wouldn’t have been able to understand it.”
He understands now. These days, King is a fixture on the speaking circuit, a walking testament to the indefatigability of the human spirit.
Inspiration is the full-time gig. Running is his side hustle. Accent on the hustle part.
The man’s finished the Boston Marathon five times. He conquered the Disney Marathon series — 48.6 miles in all — on three different occasions.
He’s a regular to the Front Range, joking that he left one of his favorite coffee mugs in Lakewood during a corporate engagement about five weeks ago. King even prepped for the 2019 New York City by running 10Ks in blades here first.
“I made my fastest marathon time in that event by doing 10K laps in Colorado,” said King, a recipient of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. “It was crazy.”
But the craziest, happiest stops are the ones such as this weekend when his two passions — people and racing — intersect. The chance to run and to touch lives via Achilles, an organization that empowers differently-abled athletes across the world; and its Freedom Team, which helps veterans who’ve suffered trauma enter endurance events.
King knew the fates were kind, that his path was the right one, after an appearance in California about five years back. That’s when a woman and her daughter, the last in line for a meet-and-greet after hearing one of the veteran’s presentations, approached him wearing the same timorous gaze.
“I’m sorry,” King asked at the time. “Is everything OK?”
“You don’t understand,” the woman replied. “We wanted to be at the end of the line to talk to you because I didn’t want anybody to hear me say this. But I have been physically abused for the last 20 years by my husband, her father. And I have been totally afraid of standing up for myself.
“But today, I know that it’s not about me getting beaten and me getting intimidated. It’s about the fact that I need to send a message to myself first and to him second. Sending myself a message that I am worth of being stood up for … that it’s OK for me to stand up for me.”
King still chokes up over that one.
“And when she said that,” he whispered, “man, I was just blown away. ‘Like, how did she get that?’
“When I give speeches, I don’t even try and tell other people what they need to do. I speak because I’m trying to open up to myself and I’m on stage, literally, talking to myself. I’m telling me what I need to hear.
“I was just like, ‘Man, my pain was someone else’s medicine.’”
King’s mantra? Keep moving. Love. Laugh. Weep. But whether you’re in a race on Colfax or on the hamster’s wheel of life, don’t stop. Don’t look back. That old mug in Lakewood is long gone.
“I’ve let it go,” King laughed. “You lose a leg, you lose a coffee mug, you keep going. Keep. Going.”