It's a cold, windy day in March; the kind of day that reminds Minnesotans that old man winter will not go quietly. While everyone bundles up with layers and scarves and gloves, Brandon Gleason runs past them on a University Avenue sidewalk in spandex running tights and a long sleeve T-shirt.
"He's got a great work ethic and a lot of determination," his Hamline track and field Coach Paul Schmaedeke explained.
Gleason's road to recovery is more than amazing. To call it a comeback would be an understatement. In February of 2007, Gleason started his week with an ordinary, five-mile training run on the streets surrounding his university.
"Next thing you know, I'm lying on the ground. It happened so fast," he said.
Gleason was hit by a sports utility vehicle that ran through a stop sign at Thomas Avenue and Aldine Street, near Snelling Avenue.
"It kind of spun me. Then the truck went over both legs and it just snapped my right one completely, twice, before I ever knew what happened," Gleason recalls.
It was a compound fracture and Coach Schmaedeke feared infection. "I'm thinking in my mind, there's a chance he could lose that leg," he said.
"I was actually labeled a leg amputee for one year," Gleason added.
The timing couldn't have been worse. Gleason was "on cloud nine." The junior had just qualified for that national meet, which meant he had a great shot at realizing a childhood dream, to become a collegiate All-American.
"Each and every year I've been getting closer and closer. I thought it was all over," Gleason remembers.
He never had the chance to talk to that SUV driver, who did stop to render help after the accident.
"I just have always wanted to be able to tell him it's okay. I made it through it. I know you didn't mean to, lets just move on. I have no anger at all," he said.
Doctors managed to save Gleason's right leg. They put a steel rod through his tibia. The rod is held into his bone with screws near his knee and ankle.
"I think he really feels like, hey, this is a second chance. It's like a gift and I've got to take advantage of it to the max," Schmaedeke said.
Doctors and coaches thought it would take a year and a half for Gleason to get back into racing condition. He proved everyone wrong. He was ready in 10 months. But three weeks later, he was once again, pushed to the limit.
"My father was suffering from heart disease for awhile and on February 3 he passed away," Gleason said.
His father's death led to a stark conversation with his step-mother.
"She said, your father never quit anything and you're not going to quit anything," Gleason recalled.
Gleason started running again, in memory of his father, and for everyone who had been pulling for him since he was hit by that truck.
A week later, a buddy from his hometown called and said, "Hey, did you know you're in Sports Illustrated?"
Gleason was in select company as one of the national magazine's "Faces in the Crowd."
"I guess that's every little boy's, every athlete's dream to be in there. There's Dale Earnhardt Jr. and all these hockey players and basketball players and there's me, this little kid from Mantorville, Minnesota. It's just a huge honor," he said with a smile.
A short time after earning that recognition, the junior qualified for the national meet in the 5K at the conference championships. Then, he took the conference title in the 3,000 meters, with the equivalent of a relay baton holding his leg together.
"I just hugged my mom and said we did it. That was a moment I will never forget," Gleason said.
March 15 brought another memorable moment. Gleason sprinted out after hearing the starting gun in the Division III, National Indoor Championship's 5,000 meter race. He was in the hunt for the first half of the race.
"Then he just ran out of gas, he just couldn't go," his mother, Tari Gleason said. Tari drove 12 hours to Ada, Ohio to watch her son chase his dream. She rarely misses a race.
"He came over and said yep, I guess there aren't any Cinderella endings. I said Brandon, your story is not even over yet."
His story is not even close to an ending. He still has two outdoor track and field seasons, another indoor season, and the cross country season left before he graduates. There's plenty of time to chase that All-American dream.
"I feel like I have to finish what I started," a determined Gleason said.
(Copyright 2008 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)