“Don’t worry, I will still run another marathon,” the wounded soldier told his comrades.
Eitan Hermon, 45, lost his leg while protecting Israel as a reservist in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. He was determined to not only walk again, but also to run marathons. Today, he is a champion on many levels.
Hermon was raised on Kibbutz Kfar Blum, near Israel’s southern Lebanon border. He grew up under the constant threat of terrorist attack from Hezbollah. Therefore, he deeply felt that being an Israel Defense Force (IDF) combat soldier in the Golani Brigade was not only protecting Israel, but also protecting his own home, friends and family.
During the Second Lebanon War, his unit was sent deep into enemy territory to seek out Hezbollah terrorists, backed by Iran, who had fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians.
While returning to Israel from his combat mission, the armored truck that he was traveling in was hit by a road-side bomb, shattering his leg.
Seeing the pained expression on the face of his comrades as they carried him on a stretcher, he said, “Don’t worry. I will still run another marathon.”
Six weeks after his injury, he was told by Tel Hashomer Hospital staff that he would never run again.
As Hermon was an accomplished long-distance runner, starting at the age of 10, he refused to accept the prognosis. Instead, he opted to have his leg amputated, which he understood would give him the best chance to revive his running career.
Though the medical staff could not guarantee Hermon would run again, he did all he could for a successful recovery. This included physiotherapy, swimming and maintaining a positive outlook.
A year after his injury, Hermon was fitted for a prosthetic leg, the first of its kind to be made in Israel. However, it was meant for walking, not running.
Trying out the prosthetic, the determined athlete was thrilled when he was able to run a mere 15 meters.
However, recognizing the prosthetic leg’s limitations, he flew to London, where he was fitted with a specialized athletic prosthetic leg.
After intense training, he ran his first 10k four months later. Though it was very painful, so much so that his stump became raw from the friction where it met the prosthetic, he stayed strong by reminding himself that this was “good pain” caused by his determination to be a runner.
Today, the determined athlete has accomplished more than anyone anticipated.
In 2010, Hermon became the first Israeli with an amputation to finish the Tiberias Marathon, with a time of 3 hours, 46 minutes.
In 2011, he came in second place in the Berlin Marathon in his category, five minutes behind the winner.
In 2015, he was crowned International Paralympic World Champion in the London Marathon.
In 2017, after running over 35 marathons, Hermon set a world record at the Vienna Marathon for single-leg amputee runners, coming in nearly a minute faster than the previous world record holder.
This November, Hermon finished at the top of his category in the New York Marathon, according to Aish.com.
The accomplished runner and proud IDF soldier, has “Israel” printed on the shoulders of his running vest and sings “Am Yisrael Chai” (“The Nation of Israel Lives”) during the last kilometer of every competition.
He has been encouraged and supported by family, friends and the Israeli organization Tikvot (“Hopes”), which rehabilitates disabled Israeli war veterans and victims of terror through sports.
Hermon, a proud father of three, shares his life lessons with family, friends and those who follow his successes and determination.
“[I]f you want to succeed in something, you have to work hard for it, and if you don’t succeed at first, you have to train harder and harder until you do,” he told Aish.com. “We also need the support of those around us, None of what I have achieved would have been possible without the support I have been given by my family and friends, and most of all my wife. My message is that If you dream and believe in something enough, and are willing to do something about it, God willing you can achieve the things you want in life.”