WINONA LAKE — Over 300 individuals in the community began their Good Friday April 14, listening to keynote speaker Eric McElvenny share about his experience completing an Ironman Triathlon after losing his leg while being deployed in Afghanistan.
The YMCA hosted the second annual Good Friday breakfast at Christ’s Covenant Church. Individuals in the community were invited to enjoy breakfast followed by an inspiring message from McElvenny.
In December of 2011, McElvenny’s life was forever changed. While completing his third and final deployment in Afghanistan, McElvenny stepped on an IED, which lead to the amputation of his right leg.
“I felt the feeling of control being ripped away from me,” said McElvenny, referring to when he had lost his leg.
During physical therapy after the amputation, McElvenny saw that others had suffered far worse injuries during the war. He then decided he was going to do something and he sent the goal to complete the Ironman Triathlon.
The Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride and is finished off with a 26.2 mile run; a feat for someone with all their limbs.
McElvenny continued to make progress towards his goal. He learned to walk and run with a prosthetic leg and eight months after his injury, McElvenny finished his first sprint marathon. Shortly after, he qualified for the Ironman World Championship held in Kona, Hawaii.
Through his recovery, McElvenny learned many lessons. He continued to learn the necessity of trusting in God. He found that while deciding to follow Christ doesn’t guarantee a life without bad experiences, it does guarantee that he would have God giving him strength through the bad times. He also decided his wasn’t going to use his injury as an excuse as to why he couldn’t accomplish his goals.
McElvenny related his experiences training for the Ironman Triathlon with the challenges individuals face every day.
Twenty-two months after having his leg amputated, McElvenny completed the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. McElvenny recalled stopping during the final stretch of the race during the running section. He contemplated giving up and not completing the race. He knew he couldn’t give into the desire to give up. Instead, McElvenny began walking and slowing began to run to the finish line.
“I didn’t get through this challenge, I grew through this challenge,” said McElvenny.
McElvenny resides in San Diego with his wife and three daughters.