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As long as you believe that you can do things, they are not impossible.
You place limits on yourself mentally, not physically.

SPORTS HERO:
GLENN CUNNINGHAM
by Vaibhav from San Diego

Glenn Cunningham (blogspot.com)

The Hero Who Never Stopped Running

A boy sprinted; life-threatening burns scarred him, and a schoolhouse flashed, ablaze. Though the boy never imagined he would experience this, he did at the age of seven. Born on August 4th, 1909 in Atlanta, Kansas, Glenn Cunningham lived a normal life until the fateful day of February 9th, 1917; the day he received severe burns from a schoolhouse fire. Glenn survived, but paid a heavy price. His older brother, Floyd, died nine days after the accident, and when Glenn's bandages were removed, his right leg was nearly three inches shorter than the left, and the toes were nearly burned off his left foot (Sagert). These catastrophic results should have traumatized Cunningham because his doctors feared they would amputate his legs. However, Cunningham did not acquiesce, and permitted his harrowing experience to serve as an opportunity in which he vowed to regain control of his legs. After twenty-two months and hundreds of painstaking recovery sessions, Glenn relearned how to walk, and later set the world record for the mile, boasted twelve of the fastest thirty-one track records, won a silver medal in the 1500 meters at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and received induction into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (Sagert). General George S. Patton's quote, "Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom" perfectly described Cunningham's life. By surpassing his own personal struggles, Glenn Cunningham proved he was greater than an athlete; he lived as an inspiring hero to society, who displayed determination and self-confidence.


The Result of Cunningham's Determination (www.kshs.org )

Due to his determination, Cunningham persisted in everything even when success appeared improbable and people stopped believing in him. While young and recovering from his burns, Glenn's perseverance was evident: "Local folklore still recalls the boy's determination to walk, steadying himself on a plow as his mother watched from inside the house" (Sagert). Cunningham aspired to walk. The strength of his determination forced him to use a plow so he could achieve his goal. According to the folklore "his mother watched from inside the house", which confirmed that Cunningham's goals and dreams were his own motivation. Cunningham did not require a guide because he knew what he wanted to do with his life, and acted up to the level he set for himself. However, Cunningham did not have supporters who assisted him in his endeavors: "Doctors thought that Cunningham's legs were so badly burned that they would have to be amputated. However, he eventually recovered after a long battle" (Glenn Cunningham). People become dejected when authoritative sources agree they are in danger of failing. For Cunningham, the authoritative sources were his doctors. They lost hope, pronounced him an invalid, and wanted to amputate his legs. Except, Cunningham disproved them, and "recovered after a long battle", which signified Cunningham was a normal human being. He did not possess any supernatural powers, and his change did not occur overnight. His change arose from constant perseverance. Most people would have heeded the doctor's decision, but Cunningham did not. By taking his life into his own hands, he achieved his goal, and did not accept the fate bestowed upon him by others. Whatever goal he had, Cunningham's determination carried him to success, making him an inspiring hero.†


Cunningham became successful in his undertakings by displaying self-confidence since he did not let his daily challenges hinder his life. In some cases, people mocked Cunningham for his inability to walk: "Even after I was able to stand, holding onto either the bed or a chair, a neighbor kid said, 'Aw, you ain't never gonna walk again!' But by then I knew that nothing was going to stop me" (Glenn Cunningham Interview Spotlight). Cunningham had to remain confident in his goal. Though he could stand, the taunt from his neighbor could have deterred him, but he did not permit that. He refused to listen to the neighbor's threats, and did not quit. By not quitting, Cunningham had already defied society's norm. Most children, and some adults, become dejected and emotionally crushed by teasing like that. Unlike them, Cunningham realized only he could make his goal a reality, and that he had to portray self-confidence. That self-confidence manifested throughout his entire life, too: " I showed up at the track meet in my work clothes and thick-soled canvas sneakers. I was a fourth grader, and most of the others were high school athletes. All of them wore running shorts and spiked running shoes. I must have looked like David lined up against all the giants, but I won going away" (Glenn Cunningham Interview Spotlight). By winning the high school race in fourth grade, Cunningham indicated that nothing was impossible when self-confident. Cunningham wore work clothes and thick-soled sneakers while others possessed actual tracksuits. People usually expect the "better-looking" person to be superior, and when placed in Cunningham's situation, allow that thought to forbid them from attempting their venture. Cunningham revolutionized that thought. The effects of his self-confidence culminated in his victory, and proved that anybody could come from anywhere and still accomplish anything, even if they were just a fourth grader facing high school athletes. Though he was "David lined up against all the giants", Cunningham still defeated them. Without his self-confidence, he could not have been successful because it enabled him to operate in his many intimidating situations.†


His Silver Medal (www.mybestyears.com)

Glenn Cunningham's determination and self-confidence permitted him to overcome his challenges, and prove that he was more than an athlete. The day he received his burns confirmed his determination with his promise to learn to walk, and his self-confidence saved him in situations others would not have attempted. These two traits caused him to far exceed the lowly expectations placed on him. After learning to walk in a short 22 months, Cunningham journeyed on a record-breaking track career that peaked at the winning of the silver medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He served as an inspirational hero to all of society, strived to do his best in all aspects of his life, and lived by his quote, " I'd rather be dead than be mediocre" (Glenn Cunningham Interview Spotlight). For these reasons Glenn Cunningham is my hero. Countless times in my daily life, I doubted if I could overcome my challenges. However, knowing that a seven-year-old boy accomplished far greater than my petty obstacles has made me realize anything is possible when your heart, soul, and mind focus on achieving it. And not only myself, but all of society can learn from him. Glenn suffered from physical weakness yet acquired mental strength, resolve to "Never Quit" even in the most seemingly futile attempts, and fearlessness in overcoming condescending expectations placed on him by his community. Ever since Glenn plummeted to rock bottom on the ill-fated day his legs burned, his life had improved. He bounced so far when he hit bottom that even the sky was not the limit, making him as the hero who never stopped running.



Statues Commemorating Cunningham (runnerforchrist.com )

Works Cited

"Glenn Cunningham." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 21. Detroit: Gale,†2004. 96-99. Gale Virtual Reference Library.†Web. 21 Mar. 2012.

"Glenn Cunningham Interview Spotlight." MyBestYears.com Welcome! 4 Aug. 2009.†Web. 25 Mar. 2012.

SAGERT, KELLY BOYER. "Glenn Cunningham." Scribner Encyclopedia of America†Lives, Thematic Series: The 1960s. Ed. William†L. O'Neill and Kenneth T. Jackson. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 24 Mar. 2012.



Written by Vaibhav from San Diego
Last changed on: 3/1/2015 2:28:47 PM

USA Track and Field has information on US Track and Field Athletes.

Encyclopedia Britannica is the oldest English-language general encyclopedia.

Kansapedia The Kansas Historical Society is the state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state’s history to facilitate government accountability, economic development, and the education of Kansans.

mybestyears.com contains an exclusive interview with Glenn Cunningham.

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