Quadriplegic’s incredible running journey will end with one last marathon

CHICAGO -- How many excuses can you come up with not to do the things on your "to-do" list? One Chicago man's story will surprise and maybe even inspire you to get busy in your life.

Alan Robinson is a quadriplegic and has been for more than 25 years. Defying the odds, he is not only walking, he's spent the latter half of his life running--and not just around the block, but 26.2 miles at a time.

This October, he plans to run his last marathon in Chicago. He does it the only way he knows how, with dedication and a smile.
At 62, he said God has asked him to do one thing.

"I basically knew that he wanted me to run marathons,” Robinson said. "When you have a vision with God, the only thing you can really say is okay."

But it took him years, some really hard years, before saying okay. And then, there was a life altering event on January 1, 1991. Robinson was 38 when he was drunk and got behind the wheel of his car.

"I knocked down two light posts and hit the viaduct and that was it. I wanted to get out of the car. But I couldn't even move," he said.

He arrived at Northwestern Hospital by ambulance for the first of many visits and left diagnosed an "incapable quadriplegic.” That meant he had some mobility despite a severe spinal cord injury and permanent damage to all four limbs.

Eleven years later, he gave up booze and decided to slip on some running shoes, just as God, he said, had asked him to do. It was a 10K. He finished that race and one year later, he was ready for more.

He laced up for the Chicago Marathon finishing 26.2 miles in six hours and one second.

"I’m not even supposed to be standing up, let alone walking or running a marathon,” he said.

Since then, his commitment to the sport never waned. Wearing his silver cross around his neck, Robinson calls himself a walking quadriplegic and has made a life out of running.

To date, he has done 11 Chicago Marathons, four in Boston and four ultras. He's got the medals to prove it. He's now in his 60s and appearing more stiff with every year. He said he's got one more race left in him.

"By me running, it's also good for my health. By me running, I inspire other people. By me running, I'm doing what God wanted me to do," he said.

Robinson hasn't had an easy life. Before his tragic car accident, he served in Vietnam. He came home and partied a lot. He said cocaine and alcohol were his preference.

Then he spent two years in a federal penitentiary for drug trafficking.

Last year, Robinson was diagnosed with prostate cancer. And now he and doctors from Northwestern are managing that and a rare heart condition called cardiac amyloidosis.

Robinson says he is making the 40th Bank of America Chicago Marathon his last.

Even his doctors are in awe of his persistence and physical performance. Robinson has accomplished the unthinkable.

"What he has overcome is miraculous,” Dr. Danjiv Shah, cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said. "Right when you meet the guy, he's got some infectious quality about him and you really get close to him. All of us here really have come to be fond of him and I think we worry about him running the marathon with his heart condition."

But doctors know Robinson’s mission in life is all about saying, "Yes."

So with his health concerns mounting, he will say, "Yes," to the marathon for the last time.

“If anyone is going to make it through this, it's Alan,” says Dr. Shah.

"Do I know what the end result is going to be? No. But what I know is that I have to keep doing it because I know that is what God wanted me to do," Robinson said.

Robinson has been shoved, run over by bicyclists and even mugged in his years as a runner. But none of it has been enough to stop him from hitting the road.

He says doctors at Northwestern Memorial have saved his life four times; the car accident, the cancer, a blood clot in his leg and now his rare heart disease. He is forever grateful.

This fall, he said he's publishing a book about his life, body and soul.

And he's not giving up running--just marathons.