For Ben Schultz, the only way to go was up... Mount Marathon

Ben Schultz celebrates after successfully completing his first attempt at running the Mount Marathon race in Seward, Alaska. Photo by Jeff Schultz.
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SEWARD, Alaska (KTUU) - In June of 2017, Anchorage firefighter and paramedic Ben Schultz fell from a 100-foot-tall ladder. The incident temporarily stole his brain function and mobility, and nearly robbed him of his life.

The Schultz everyone saw on July 4 this year, however, as he proceeded to try and tackle the annual Mount Marathon race in Seward, is a far cry from the shell of a person doctors thought he might be after the near-fatal injuries he sustained two years ago.

[RELATED: ‘He is a living miracle': Anchorage firefighter recovering from horrific 2017 fall]

Perhaps it was fate or luck or his story or a combination of them all, but Schultz’s first go at the Mount Marathon lottery was successful in getting him a bib for this year’s race, and in making his mother do a double-take about what was to come this July.

“When Ben told me he had ‘put in’ to run it, I was like, ‘You’re doing what?’” said Joan Schultz, Ben’s mother. “This was about six or eight months ago. He says, ‘Yeah, I put in, it’s not like I’m doing it.’

”I thought, ‘I don’t have to worry about this,’” she chuckled. “The 4 percent chance he gets it... and there he was.”

Relying on family, friends and an unshakable faith -- along with countless surgeries, years of rehabilitation sessions and ongoing upkeep with both his therapies and workout sessions -- Schultz finally toed the line at the smoky, blazing hot 2019 edition of Mount Marathon. He was guided by fellow firefighter and training partner Rob Whitney, who Schultz’s father Jeff said likely planted the Mount Marathon seed in the first place.

“Rob had said, ‘Why don’t you do this?’” Jeff said, “and Ben is the kind of guy that says, ‘Oh, sure!’

“It was really emotional,” he added. “We’re just happy and blessed to have Ben the way he is.”

Jeff and Joan missed Ben at the start of the race, but pedaled on their bikes throughout the afternoon, tracking his move up and back down the mountain on their phones.

Their son ran the full course, to the top and back down, suffering through brutal conditions for an hour and change longer than any of his competitors.

“It was amazing,” Ben said shortly after crossing the finish line, “incredible. Certainly had my struggles in the way up, but it lived up to the hype.”

Ben and his parents, too, were propped up by the support of his comrades throughout the duration of the race.

“That moment he saw his contingent cheering him on,” Joan said, “then down the road, another, cheering.

“We are thoroughly happy and thoroughly proud,” she said, “and we have seen a lot. It is amazing what God brings us through.”

As for what’s next, Ben said he plans on running Mount Marathon again. He also began working for the Anchorage Fire Department again a few months back, and noted that he’s interested in possibly moving to a more challenging position within the AFD family.

For now, he’s speaking with his feet, and he isn’t just back - he’s getting better every day.

To see full results from this year’s Mount Marathon, click here.
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