We are both thankful and inspired by the opportunity to work with Elliott. He runs with the RW 6@6 crew on occasion and we look forward to seeing more of him. Thanks Elliott for speaking with us and see you on the road!
“My name is Elliot Smith. I am from south Louisiana. We moved soon after I was born and I was raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi; going to school and doing farm work. High school was over in 2000 and I tried my luck In the workforce for a couple years. When September 11 happened, I began building a desire to join the military. In April of 2004 I was inducted into the U.S. Army. From there I went straight to boot camp, advanced individual training, desert and urban combat training, and by December 2004 I was in An Najaf, Iraq.
On May 8, 2005, I was on checkpoint duty, and was accidentally run over by heavy equipment (Tank). My foot was destroyed. A few weeks later, I underwent a right below knee amputation surgery. I was then ordered to physical therapy that lasted about 8 months. In July of 2006 I was retired from the Army on medical retirement. I went through a period of abuse of pain killers, lost a lot of hope for myself, and struggled with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. Ie: hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, depression, insomnia, ect. In May of 2010, I decided, through the motivation of negative consequences, (weight gain, low self esteem, negative self image, loss of direction in life) to give a healthy, active, productive life another chance. I resolved to to the best I could do, even if I could never be as strong or active as I once was.
I got a gym membership at Real Time Fitness on Nine Mile Road. They were really helpful in encouraging me and giving me tips and pointers along the way. I began losing big weight. And decided I should give jogging a try. I went to my prosthetics provider at Hangar Prosthetics on Creighton Rd and expressed my desire to start jogging again. Hangar ordered me a basic running foot and fitted me for it. I took it out the next day and began my training.
It was painful at first, not with the leg as much, but just being so out of shape, my body hurt, my leg burned, And my mind kept telling me to just give up. I started running a mile here, a half mile there, and didn’t push myself too hard. I just kept showing up, and doing it. Over the next few years, my body got stronger, my mind developed more positive motivations, and my cardiovascular system built more endurance. I say again that I didn’t push myself too hard, I just showed up, did the work, and let my body do its thing in its own time.
I ran my first 5k in 2011 and my first 10k in 2012. Also I ran 11 miles on a training day in my hometown in Mississippi. It was from my high school in Sumrall, MS to my house in Oloh, MS.
Today, I am stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m 6ft, and 222 lean pounds. I was 270 jiggly pounds when I started in 2010. My self image has improved by strides , my physical condition and blood work is very balanced, and my desire to just keep doing my best is restored.
In today’s world, many people have forgotten what work is about. We want drive-through results, yesterday. This is not realistic. Real change takes real work and commitment. It’s not as difficult as I can tend to make it. It’s really just about showing up, each day, just for that day, and going through the motions. Some days I love it, some days I hate it, but I just keep doing it, because the results are worth every drop of blood and sweat. Running has helped save my life. I’m here to remind people, that if I can achieve what I have achieved and will continue to achieve, with one left leg, an artificial right leg, and the cards that I have stacked against me, than anyone can do it. The only thing in our way is an excuse. Today I have no excuses. And if you have two good legs with a healthy heart, then your excuse means little to me-just sayin’.”
We also had the opportunity for a Q & A session with Elliott. Here is our conversation:
At what point did you decide to start running and how did you do it?
I started running back in 2010. prior to that, I had over time, allowed my injury to provide me an excuse as to why I shouldn’t be very athletic anymore. I gained a lot of weight. I must have weighed about 270 lbs. a healthy weight for me is about 220. One day in 2010, I went canoeing a river with some friends. After the float was over, I found myself digging sand from an unnatural area that had developed under my moobs (man boobs) . I also noticed that my moobs were resting on my gut. I began to get enough of not only my physic
al condition, but my self image as well. So, I started working out in a gym. I Eventually talked to my prosthesis provider, and one thing led to another. I received my first running foot, and began the slow, hard work of learning to use it. I began running a mile every other day. It built up from there over a several month period. I began to believe in myself again. My self image began to get better and better. And the old lie that I once told myself, that I’d never be athletic again, began to fade away. A big mark in that recovery process was entering into the 2011 Seafood Fest 5k. And the rest is history from there. Today I weigh a solid 222lbs.
What was your first race and how did you prepare?
My first race was the 2011 seafood fest 5k in downtown Pensacola. I signed up primarily because, up until this point, I had been running and training alone. I wanted to meet other runners and to run with a group of people. I remembered how much more motivating it was in the military when we ran in groups. I wanted to test my training. Also I saw it as a means to reconnect with the society around me. Being a combat veteran from the Iraq war
brings its own challenges. And one of those challenges is in learning how to fit back in to a society that, generally, has no idea what experiences we have endured or how it has changed us. But my purpose is not to try to fix that. It is to find a way to connect. To find a similarity and not a difference. And I learned through running and training, that running races with others is a way to achieve that reconnection. Plus it’s just plain fun.
What was your biggest fear?
My biggest fear was that I would quit without giving my best. But that fear was disproved.
What is your most memorable running experience?
The most memorable experience was with a cross country runner in 2011. I met her through a friend. And I wanted to impress her. Up until this point I had never run more than 3-4 miles all at once. She invited me to go for a run with her and I was like, “of course”. When we got to the running trails, I asked her how far she wanted to go. She said, “not far. Maybe 6 or 7 miles.” And without skipping a beat I said, “ok. Sounds good.” Haha. So we ran. She got way out ahead of me. But I resolved that if she could do it, I could do it. I made it about 6 miles of the 7 mile path she took us down. She had gotten so far out ahead, that I had given up on catching her. I cut through the woods, and short-cut back to the parking lot. I rested on the tailgate of my truck and waited for her. About 10 mins later she showed up, with a surprised look on her face. I said “what took you so long?” Then I laughed and told her what I did. But up until that day, I had never ran that far with my prosthetic foot. Ever since, I have been pushing myself further and further. So far, my furthest run is 11 miles.
What is your favorite run gear and why?
- I’m a minimal gear runner. I was a Brooks shoe runner. And I still love Brooks. But these new Newtons are interesting.
- I like them because, with my prosthesis, I have a tendency to run a bit flat footed on my good foot
- And these Newtons are built in a way that helps me to have a better impact, roll, and toe off
- My good leg feels better and more fully worked
- It feels like my good leg is getting stronger because of the way the shoe
- I also like the Amphipod water bottle. I can take water with me on 10ks and not have to grip at a bottle or worry about dropping it.
When I go further than 10k, I run with my camel back. It serves the same purpose, yet I can keep more water with me for the distance. Because I run with only one good leg, I actually use muscles that physically sound runners don’t incorporate as much. Abs, back, hips, ect. So I actually use twice to 3x the energy to run as a physically sound runner. Which means hydration is a little more important. So I keep water with me. The running newest designs of running feet and it incorporates more than one “blade” to give me a smoother step. When you have a “C” shaped blade by itself,prosthesis I run with is called “catapult” and it is made by a company called “freedom”. It’s one of the there is a small problem with the physics of impact. Because at impact, the angle of the “C” is at such a point,, that when action
My next goal is to run the Pensacola Half Marathon in November. I plan to achieve that by training all summer. I have a training plan. To boot, will be in Germany and greater Europe all summer. So I will be training in thinner air and much more inconsistent elevation. If I stick to my training plans, I should be super ready for the half marathon on Florida’s flat ground and oxygen rich air. We’ll see. equals opposite reaction, there is actually a slight push backwards which creates a “dead spot” in the action. Catapult has added an extra, smaller “C” band, slightly forward of the “dead spot”. This extra band flexes along with the main band on impact and helps to “pull” the energy forward across the “dead spot” so in essence, it eliminates the dead spot all together. I’ve broken 3 of them so far. Lol. But freedom loves a challenge. They build a stronger, better one free of charge, ship it to me, and challenge me to break the new one. Lol. I enjoy working with them.
We are giving you the chance to win some Newtons too. Enter to win a pair of your own. Register to win June 5-June 26 here. Click on the “Giveaway” tab and enter your email.