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Eitan Hermon lost a leg in the Second Lebanon War and was told he'd never run again.
Eitan Hermon was a 31-year-old reserve soldier in July 2006 when he was called up to fight in the Second Lebanon War. A former Golani Brigade combat soldier, he joined his unit deep behind enemy lines seeking out the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns and cities.
“I lived on Kibbutz Kfar Blum, close to the border,” he told Aish.com. "I had lived under the threat of Hezbollah attacks for years. I wasn’t only fighting to protect the country, I was also protecting my own home, my friends and my family,”
Serving in the Golani brigade reserve unit
After several days searching and destroying Hezbollah targets, Eitan was on his way back to Israel when the armored truck he was travelling was hit by a road side bomb. “My leg was in a very bad state. The other soldiers lifted me onto a stretcher and I remember their white faces as they looked at my injury.”
Reassuring the other soldiers and perhaps also himself, Eitan told them, “Don’t worry, I’ll run another marathon.”
An accomplished long-distance runner, Eitan worked as a dietitian and a physical coach before his injury.
The soldiers were picked up by another unit and then driven over the border to Israel. Eitan was rushed to Nahariya, the nearest major town, for emergency surgery.
Six weeks later, he was transferred to the Tel Hashomer hospital which specializes in rehabilitation where he received the hard news that he would never be able to run again.
Determined that the injury would not keep him from living his life, he pushed for the option of amputation which he understood would give him the best chance of returning to the track. He underwent a 14-hour operation where doctors removed his leg below the knee.
“There is no point dwelling about what you can’t change. My leg was beyond repair. I asked myself, ‘What are you going to do about it?'
“There were doubts about what would be possible after the surgery. No doctor promised me anything, I just did everything I could do get fit again – physiotherapy, swimming, going to the gym. I was totally focused on being able to run again.”
A year after his injury, Eitan's prosthetic leg was fitted. It was the first of its kind to be made in Israel, although it was not a specialized leg for running.
The first time Eitan actually tried to run again was in a public park in Ramat Gan. “I was very nervous, I managed to run for 15 meters, and overjoyed raised my hands high in the air. I thought to myself, I am running! Wearing running pants that covered his prosthetic leg, he noticed people looking at him a little bemused.
Running in the Paris Marathon with Israel emblazoned on his shoulder
“Nobody else knew what that run meant to me, they probably thought, what’s he celebrating? He barely moved!”
Soon after, Eitan flew to London where he was fitted with a specialized athletic prosthetic leg and continued training as much as his body would allow. Four months later, he completed his first 10k run. His coaches were amazed and he continued training at a high level.
“Although it was very painful at times, I would remind myself that it was a good pain, showing me that I was fighting, and that gave me strength.”
Two years after his amputation, he made history, becoming the first Israeli with an amputation to finish a marathon as he completed the 2010 Tiberias Marathon with a time of 3 hours, 46 minutes.
In the Berlin Marathon later that year, Eitan came second in his category with a time of 3:02:12, five minutes behind the winner.
“It was a great achievement, but coming second gave me the belief I could come first and this became my new goal.”
In April 2017, seven and a half years later, and over 35 marathons, Eitan realized this dream finishing the Vienna marathon with a time of 2:56:53, becoming the fastest man in his category, almost a minute quicker than the previous world record holder.
Eitan breaks the world record in the T42 men's marathon
Last month, just days after his 45th birthday, he capped off an incredible year, winning the prestigious New York Marathon. “It was a great way to celebrate!”
Eitan runs with ‘Israel’ printed over both shoulders of his running vest, and emblazoned on the back his name and the Hebrew word "Tikvot," an organization that rehabilitates disabled Israeli war veterans and victims of terror through sports. “I am extremely proud to represent Israel, and it's something I think a lot about while I’m running.”
“In the last kilometer of every race, I sing Am Yisrael Chai, (The Nation of Israel Lives) over and over again in my head, raising my hands high in the air when I reach those words. This is how I ran in New York, in Vienna, Paris, Berlin and every other city. I am tapping into something bigger than myself and it always gives me that extra bit more.”
Eitan says his three children, aged ten, eight and six, are growing up with a powerful life lesson.
“They know that if 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 added, “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.”
Since his injury, Eitan has begun a new career as a life coach and motivational speaker giving seminars, workshops and talks across the country.
“Although there is for sure one more marathon in me, now I want to focus on helping other people reach their goals. 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.”
Eitan Hermon is supported by the charity Tikvot which helps fund the rehabilitation of disabled IDF soldiers and terror victims through sports. To read more you can check out www.tikvot.org.il or Eitan’s website at www.eitanhermon.co.il