While serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sergeant First Class Landon Ranker sustained traumatic brain injuries and severe knee damage. Told by his doctors he would never run again, Landon began training and went on to earn medals at the Warrior Games, and completed the 197-mile Hood to Coast Relay, the largest relay race in the world, in 2010 and 2011. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Meritorious Service Medal. Landon remains on active duty.
Before I was wounded, I ran all the time. After I got hurt I couldn’t run for a long time, but slwly I began to run again. At first I thought there was no way I could do that (Hood to Coast). When I realized that it’s only about five or six miles per leg, I thought, that’s not so bad.
Q: How did participating previously, adjust your training for your second relay?
Before the first event I did some basic four-to-five mile runs – Army-time running. I have damaged knees and a head injury. I had to train easier than I used to before my injury and I learned some lessons from that. The second time, I did longer runs and doing runs in the middle of the night, because the second leg takes place in the evening or early in the morning. I don’t train this way all the time, but because you get little recovery time you don’t get to do proper stretching. Because of this, I practiced stretching in vans and tight places to get used to the different conditions I would face during the race.
Q: What is your pre-race routine?
Before each race I eat a lot of carbs and like to soak in a hot tub. I’m not a spring chicken so I have to do even more stretching just to get the joints warmed up. Right before, I usually have a breakfast consisting of fruit and juices. I have to have something in my stomach a good 40 minutes before I start running.
Q: What is the most challenge aspect of the relay event?
I would say the second and third legs, because your body is so tired. You don’t have any recovery time. You’re crammed into a van with a bunch of equipment and people. Plus, you’re not eating or sleeping properly.
Q: How do you motivate yourself for this event day in and day out?
That’s the easy part. I do a lot of events and I’m constantly around people who suffer from more serious injuries than me, and I’m not going through what they do on a daily basis. I know that if they can overcome those challenges, so can I.
They’ve been huge. They’ve been the biggest enabler. They’ve helped fund so many different types of activities. They’ve helped me with skiing. They’ve come up with soe many different events and the people who work with Disabled Sports USA are very understanding and friendly. They make everyone feel included, especially someone with my type of injury that’s not visible. Sometimes TBI is thought of as a lesser side effect. In my case, it’s a major injury and that’s a huge part of who I am.
Q: Why do you feel adaptive sports are important?
Once you get wounded you stand a high risk of falling into depression and you get into the mind set of ‘my body can’t do this.’ Doing adaptive sports counters that. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself you can rise up to the challenge. The more you do and the more you see others doing amazing things, the more inspired you become.