(NEW YORK) — Runners usually celebrate a race after crossing the finish line, but for Bryan Steinhauer, just being able to stand at the starting line is a victory.
Five years after a brutal attack left him comatose and unlikely to walk again, the 26-year-old Steinhauer will join thousands of runners during April’s New York City half-marathon.
In 2008 Steinhauer was just a few weeks shy of graduating from Binghamton University when he was attacked by Binghamton basketball player Miladin Kovacevic in a bar off campus. During the attack Kovacevic kicked and stomped on Steinhauer’s head, fracturing his skull in multiple places and putting him in a coma that lasted months.
Kovacevic fled the country for his homeland of Serbia, where he ended up pleading guilty to “inflicting severe bodily harm” on Steinhauer. He was sentenced to 27 months in jail in 2010.
Steinhauer’s recuperation has been arduous. Waking up from the coma was just one step on his long road to recovery. Due to severe brain damage, he had to learn to walk and talk again.
But it was his time in physical therapy that put him on the path to running a half-marathon.
“My first time running was in physical therapy, just trying to walk at a good pace,” Steinhauer told ABC station WABC-TV. “After my physical therapy I just kept it up at the treadmill at the gym. Then I came to the park, the beautiful park, and said ‘Cool, I’ll run here.’”
Running 13.1 miles is just the start of Steinhauer’s racing aspirations. This fall he plans on joining more than 40,000 runners for the New York Marathon, which has a 26-mile course. He is also raising money for “Minds Over Matter,” a foundation he established at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York to help people who have suffered traumatic brain injury.
“I’m a success story, I’m not a victim,” Steinhauer said. “So here I am to prove it to you. To prove it to the world.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Lisa Respers France, CNN Newswire
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent