Racing in memory of or in honor of: “I can’t name one veteran, but I can name the veterans of the Vietnam War as impacting my life. They dutifully served when called, fought many hard battles and at the end of their service the sacrifices they made were unappreciated. Due to their experiences, the veterans of the Vietnam War have become the biggest advocates for recent veterans of the War on Terror, with the goal of insuring that when we come home we are treated with dignity and gratitude.”
1991 – 2012
The 2019 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon will be a comeback race for David Neumer. The last race this handcyclist finished was the 2017 marathon before he underwent surgery on his arm.
“The simplest way to describe it would be golfer’s elbow,” David explains. “I overused my arm.”
David had pushed through the pain for a while, but after a slower finish than what he’d hoped for in 2017, he decided it was time to take a break from handcycling and get his physical mechanics taken care of.
If you ask David how many marathons he’s competed in, he’ll tell you he’s lost count. His guess is “probably somewhere in the twenties.” In many of those races he was the first across the finish line, and he has plenty of medals to prove it.
There is a drive to excel inside this soldier. He’s always pushing himself to be better than he was in his last race. That determination has caused him to achieve the kind of athletic success on wheels that a lot of people who are running on two feet only dream of.
While on mission with his Special Forces team in Afghanistan in 2009, David had been caught in a fire fight and was hit by an 82 mm mortar. His treatment ended in a “limb salvage,” which means amputation was considered, but then doctors decided to try to “salvage” what they could of his right leg.
His body littered with shrapnel that was most damaging to his knee, his ankle weakened and his tibia destroyed, David learned he would never run again. But his time in the military has resulted in a key component of his success after combat.
For David, quitting had never been an option, even in the physically demanding training it takes to be a member of Special Forces. Not everyone makes it through that training, but the ones who do come out of it with a certain level of confidence that’s hard to shake.
“If you can get through that, you can get through anything, so I guess that’s really how I managed my whole rehabilitation,” David says. “After I got hit by the mortar, I never considered myself as done. I just thought I needed to start rebuilding.”
David began handcycling as part of his rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center. He remembers his first ride well, blazing on wheels for the first 15 minutes and deciding it was almost too easy.
“Then at about the 20-minute mark, I realized I didn’t know if I was going to make it back. My arms were totally wasted,” David says. “I Iearned you don’t just jump on the hand cycle and perform. You build yourself up to it.”
He was invited to join a group going to DisneyWorld for a half marathon where his goal was simply to finish. He took his handcycle through the course of the Boston Marathon, and later participated in the Department of Defense Warrior Games, receiving several gold medals for handcycling (and a couple of silver ones), plus medals for swimming and shooting. More medals came in the Invictus Games, an international adaptive multi-sport event created by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sports.
It should be no surprise then that David’s goal for the 2019 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon is to win. It’s not about beating the other handcyclists, he says. It’s about bettering himself.
“I just like to do well,” David says. “I want to be better than the last time I did it. That’s all.”