Publicity with a Purpose

Micah proudly displays the American Flag at a job site.

May 7, 2019

Adapt and overcome – a motto Micah Herndon learned in boot camp more than a decade ago – has recently taken on a whole new meaning for the Ohio Edison substation electrician and former U.S. Marine.

It’s a philosophy he painstakingly relied on the morning of April 15, the day of the Boston Marathon when he crawled across the finish line without assistance after his legs locked up during the race. It’s also the day his inspiring story went viral.

“I’m extremely surprised by all the press and coverage the story has gotten. I never expected it to get this big,” Micah expressed. “I was just running to honor my good friends and the story got out. I woke up at 3 a.m. after the marathon and saw footage of myself on SportsCenter. It was surreal.”

A professional runner had taken video footage of Micah’s crawl across the finish line that day and posted it to Twitter. The story spread like wildfire on social media. Micah’s phone started ringing off the hook with requests for news interviews from national publications and television appearances on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Fox Business and Fox 8.

The media attention placed a well-deserved spotlight on Micah’s reasons for running. He took part to honor his fallen military comrades – Mark Juarez, Matthew Ballard and Rupert Hamer, who died as a result of an improvised explosive device incident in Afghanistan. He also looked at it as a way to cope with his own post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt in a positive way. During his four years in the Marine Corps, Micah completed more than 400 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as a gunner on top of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing initially sparked his interest in running the world-renowned race. Micah revealed: “I know firsthand what it’s like to be in a war zone explosion and can easily connect with those affected by the 2013 tragedy. That’s what drew me to Boston. It really hits home for me.”

So much so, he was determined to finish the 2019 marathon at any cost.

“At no point did I ever think I wouldn’t finish,” said Micah. “Around mile 20, my right leg locked up. Then my left leg locked up at mile 22. For me, that was the lowest point mentally in the race. My pace got a lot slower. I knew I wasn’t going to get my goal time, and I didn’t want to fail the guys I was running for. It became mental warfare to finish.”

But finish he did, grounding and motivating himself through the ordeal by repeating the last names of his three friends to himself as he crawled the last few yards.

He could not have anticipated the multitude of warm reactions that the feat would produce.

“Initially, all the fanfare from the race made me feel uneasy for the families of my friends, thinking it stirred up painful memories for them.” said Micah, “But we have been in touch and they said it brought them happiness to see that their loved ones are honored and not forgotten.”

Micah, who admits he’s still a marathon novice, is already training for the New York City Marathon after Good Morning America presented him with an invite to race this fall. The show also set him up with a professional running coach in New York, who is a former Olympian. The two keep in touch via text and an app Micah uses to record his training progress.

Micah says he’s looking forward to the race and improving his performance through more targeted training, rest and good nutrition. His family, who cheered him on in Boston, plans to watch him compete in New York – and will add one additional fan come race day.  Micah and his wife are expecting a baby girl in July.

He also has plans to run Boston again in 2020.

“I see my battle scars as fuel for my workouts and everyday life,” said Micah. “Running is the outlet that helped me successfully reintegrate into society after my tours of duty. If sharing my story helps others find their own outlets for healing and release, then I’m all for it.”

Micah (c.) has received support and encouragement from his management team at Ohio Edison, including (l.-r.) Substation Services Manager Nate Wigington; Regional Operations Support General Manager Jeremiah Gorkos; and Operations Support Director Tracy Mayse, as well as his coworkers from UWUA Local 126.