Thousands of runners from across the world competed in the 120th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday, including a Franklin man who lost his legs in a freak accident 10 years ago.
On a recent Saturday morning, the bedroom lights of Daryl Farler’s Franklin home flickered on through the darkness of the early morning hours. It takes a certain kind of determination for a person to be up at 5 a.m. on a weekend.
Determination though is what Daryl was leaning on to get him through the 20 miles that lay ahead of him.
“It’s really perfect running weather,” Daryl said as he put on his shoes in the parking lot of Fleet Feet in Green Hills.
For months, Daryl and a few dozen other runners have been meeting before the sun rises to head out on training runs together. Most were preparing for the St. Jude Rock N’ Roll marathon in Nashville, but Daryl had his sights set on a different race - the Boston Marathon.
“To me, Boston is the pinnacle of running in America. The only thing I would put remotely close to it is the Olympics, and I’m never going to be able to run in the Olympics,” the 35-year-old said with a smile.
This training run was Daryl's last before his first Boston Marathon. While everyone he was heading out, this final training run was focused on finishing. None of them have had to run a mile in this man's shoes.
“To be honest I wouldn't be running now if I hadn't lost my legs,” he said as he pushed his way through a steady hill in Nashville 12 South neighborhood.
To know how far these legs have carried him, you must first know where he has been.
“I thought I was going to die,” Daryl said about the day in 2006 that changed his life.
Daryl had just started dating his girlfriend, Chevonne, at the time. He was playing with her dog one morning when the cocker spaniel accidentally scratched him near the corner of his left eye. The scratch happened on a Saturday, by Monday morning he was in a coma.
Doctors would eventually determine that a rare strain of beta hemolytic strep had quickly infected Daryl’s entire body.
“Once he went septic they said it was less than a 10 percent survival rate. He was in a coma for two weeks,” Chevonne recalled. “It was scary because you don’t know what the other end is going to be."
After waking up from the coma, Daryl proposed to Chevonne.
Dialysis, ventilators, drugs and doctors all saved Daryl’s life but to keep blood flowing to his heart, meant stopping the blood that was flowing to his legs and hands.
“We came to the decision that fingers and feet were coming off. I couldn't do it. At the time I knew it had to happen but I was afraid to pull the trigger,” Daryl said.
Doctors would eventually remove both of Daryl’s legs and most of his fingers as a result of the infection.
“Between scratch and amputation we’re talking almost three months,” he said.
At the time of the amputation, Daryl was selling subprime mortgages. As the housing bubble burst, his life did too. First he lost his legs, and then he lost his job.
“That depression and emotional baggage were to the point that I couldn't remember years of my son’s life,” he recalled.
Life's worst moment though somehow became the best thing could have happened. Daryl eventually found his way to a new job helping other amputees learn how to walk and run again at Nashville Prosthetics.
Daryl wears shorts to his new job every day, he says that seeing that his legs and feet aren't his own helps his patients understand that he gets it he's been there too.
“They want to be more than just an amputee. They just want to go home and prove to everyone that says they can’t run, that they can,” Daryl says about the patients he works.
Daryl is trying to prove something as well, before he lost his legs he wasn’t much of a runner.
“I honestly believe I'm here for a reason,” he says about running his first Boston Marathon.
But death has helped him find his way in life.
“Your disability is on in your mind, physical limitation is only what you put on yourself,” he says looking back on the experience which has changed his life.
Daryl completed his first Boston Marathon on Monday in 8 hours and 25 minutes, crossing the finish line just after 5 p.m. EST.
“It can completely turn your life upside down or it can completely change your life for the better.”