Hey guys! My name is Gabriel Nunez, I’m from Worthington, Ohio. I’m a senior, double majoring in Psychology and Anthropology. In my down time I tinker on cars, lift weights, and fail at cooking. This is my first real year on the club; some of you might remember me from last year and might have wondered why I left after such a short time, or why I came back. If you’re reading this for an answer, you’re about to get it. This is my story.
I started running as a way to improve my cardio for boxing and MMA back when I was in high school and as time went on I grew to really enjoy it. After I graduated high school I began running with an organization called My Team Triumph (MTT), following the example of Rick and Dick Hoyt, we ran and pushed a child (with a specially designed chair) who couldn’t run on their own. I got to run a lot of road races with MTT and working with those kids has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Training in Boxing, MMA, and running was easily compatible and by the end of my sophomore year I had achieved a lot of my goals in all three sports and overcome every challenge thrown my way. At the time I didn’t know I was about to face my biggest test yet.
Not long before what was supposed to be the start of my junior year, in August, I had a car accident on the highway, first hitting a concrete barrier, then rebounding off it to hit a line of trees, and for good measure, the engine exploded not long after. I should have died, I was knocked unconscious and the car was in flames. If it weren’t for some stranger who pulled me from the car in time, I would have.
When I came to, I was in the hospital. In the weeks that followed, I was mostly confined to bed at home, and when I walked, it was with a cane. For a small amount of time, I got an idea of what those kids I had been pushing in races felt like. I had a long list of injuries including a severe level 3 concussion, several herniated discs, bone bruises, and a cracked sternum. My car was a charred frame, I wasn’t able to work and I was even forced out of school for the upcoming semester because of my injuries.
By about 2 months after the crash I was able to go back to some of my regular activity. I was still badly injured but I tried to pick up running again slowly, since lifting and fighting were still far out of the question. It was possible but painful. At the time, I wasn’t in the best state of mind, I was terrified of admitting things had changed so drastically for myself, physically and mentally, after the crash. I tried to ignore the aches and pains, but I finally gave in at the finish line of the All-Ohio at Cedarville last year, where I posted a 36:48. Running the race hurt was my fault, and accepting that I had fallen so far after my accident was a bitter realization to swallow. My 2 week long stint with the running club was ended there. I returned home humbled and unsure about the future.
I spent the next several months recovering in some of the hardest and most humbling days of my life. My confidence was shattered and trying to run had only worsened my injuries. Complications from the concussion had permeated into every part of my life and nothing seemed to be going right. I had thought about dropping out of school and even hanging up the gloves for good. Despite my pain, the time off would prove to be an important turning point. I had time to contemplate my accident, my injuries, and most importantly, the man who had risked his life to save mine. He didn’t have to risk charging into a car already engulfed in flames, didn’t have to risk meeting the same end I was about to face. I wasn’t someone worth saving, but he gave me that second chance; something I realized I had been wasting feeling sorry for myself. I owed it to him to be the best version of myself I could be. I promised I would earn that second chance I had been given.
It’s impossible to leave that chapter out of any story about my life, because whether it’s running or fighting or school, all of it revolves around paying my debt. Earning this, being worthy of this opportunity. Working my way back up was difficult but with new found motivation and my family and friends by my side every step of the way I fully recovered with the exception of some small side effects of the concussion. It was last March when I started training and by the summer I had really turned a corner thanks to a close friend and training partner who had even gotten me a fight set up for the September. Not long after, I signed up for the Columbus half-marathon. I was more than excited for the fall but I knew something was missing. When school started up this fall, I paid a visit back to the running club.
Coming back was a great decision and had the added benefit of giving me another shot at the All-Ohio. Running with the club definitely helped prepare me for competition ahead. In a 6 week period I would have my comeback boxing match, my second shot at the All-Ohio, and finally, the Columbus Half Marathon. In my fight, I waged 3 round battle that ended in a TKO victory for myself and my opponent a hospital trip. In my second go-round at the All-Ohio I posted a 32:39 beating my previous time by more than 4 minutes and at the Columbus Half I ran a 1:32:01. All in all, it was a good 6 weeks but I know I can produce even better results with more time and work.
I’ve recovered and come a long way from last year, but I can’t take credit all to myself; I owe my family and friends for pulling me through those times. I don’t have words to describe how grateful I am for all those people who supported me, because without them I would no doubt have given up on a lot of things, fighting and running included. I owe everything to that man who saved me, because I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for him. Last but not least, I owe a big thanks to you all in the club. I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know a lot of you. You push me to train harder, run faster and be a better athlete; you have inspired me so much with your incredible work ethic, skill, and energy that you possess. Thank you all for putting up with me, despite all my faults. I love you guys and I love this club.
Now a more than a year removed from my crash, I still carry the lessons I learned from those days. I remember my doctors telling me I couldn’t fight again; that my back might never be same; I remember the concerned looks of my friends and family as I hobbled on a cane. I remember the people who doubted me. I remember hearing the same questions again and again. Are you going to stop lifting? Are you going to drop out because your head’s so messed up? Are you going to quit fighting? Are you going to give up running?
The answer’s No.
I’m Not Done; Not Yet.