Anchorage (KTUU) If you don't know his story, and you had just met him, you would never know that Ben Schultz had suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Walking into the gym at Turnagain Crossfiit for the 5:30 a.m. class, his bright smile and laugh lights up the chilly Anchorage morning.
"He doesn't see what he can't do, he just sees what he can do," Turnagain Crossfit coach Trent Covington says.
Ben started going to Turnagain last summer after returning home from extensive surgery and therapy following his fall off a 100 foot ladder during an Anchorage firefighting training exercise.
He's used to being a long shot, especially when faced with an uphill challenge. So, as Crossfit helped him get back to normal activities such as hiking and running, he felt the need for a new challenge.
Running Mount Marathon, one of Alaska's toughest races, was his first choice.
"Every since I was a kid, I've always wanted to be able to do that," Ben says with a grin. "After my injury, I've kind of propelled a little, a little stronger than I was prior."
For those not familiar, Mount Marathon is based off a lottery for first time participants. The chances of a rookie winning is very slim.
"My orthopedic surgeon and I both applied for it," Ben says with a laugh. "We looked at the odds, and the odds are a 4 percent chance that you're going to make it."
But once again, Ben beats the odds. He won that lottery, and will be running the race on July 4th.
His family's reaction to him running the race was slightly expected, seeing as he did just recover from a traumatic brain injury.
"They basically said, you're crazy," Ben laughs, "and if you make it, wear a helmet."
That's exactly what Ben will be doing. He's wearing a mountaineering helmet as he goes up and down the mountain.
For Ben, it's realizing a dream, but he says he couldn't have done it without the help and support of the community at Turnagain.
"It has pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of. They have continued to encourage me, and push me on."
For his coaches, seeing Ben excel each time he walks into the gym fills them with joy, knowing that he's able of experiencing life the way he wants to.
"He puts in the work, and he works hard, and he has fun, and he doesn't ever put a limitation on himself, which is fun. It’s fun to see that," Covington says.
Lee Barloon, another coach at Turnagain who has also run Mount Marathon and will be running this year, marvels at the progress Ben has made and cannot wait for him to cross the finish line on Thursday.
"Just to see him complete it, it’s just another milestone that he's gotten in his training," Barloon says with a grin. "To go from where he was to coming into CrossFit, changing his lifestyle, and now to competing in a race that's considered one of Alaska's toughest mountain races, to see him just complete it from start to finish and just be successful."
Mount Marathon is this Thursday, July 4th. The junior race begins at 9 a.m, followed by the women's race at 11 a.m. and finally the men's race at 2 p.m.