Don’t Waste Your Second Chance!

People often ask why I run. Or more specifically, why I run so far or hard. We all have reasons we run. We run for fun, raise money for charity, spend time with friends or simply to enjoy the fresh air. And then sometimes we run for those deep dark pieces of us that we don’t talk to anyone about. This post is about that reason for me.

Every summer that I can remember before I was 10 years old, I would travel from my home in Coos Bay, OR to Eugene, OR. My mom would take me to the airport where I would catch a plane and fly to Pasco, WA. When your age is in the single digits and you live in Coos Bay, Eugene might as well be New York. And a half hour flight is probably the coolest thing in the world. And for me it was. Not just for the flight but because this meant I was going to spend the summer with my grandma, my mom’s mom. It was about the only time I got to see her and I looked forward to it each and every year.

The summer of 1980 was a lot like most other times I spent with her. At least I think it was, in all honesty, it is really the only segment of time I can really remember spending time with her. And it was a great summer. She had recently remarried and where they were living had lots of neighbors, some with kids my age. Think of any classic pre-teen movie from the 80’s and that is how my summer was going.

About half way through my vacation we were planning to travel from Pasco, north, to Wenatchee, WA. My grandma’s new husband had family there we were going to visit. He worked swing shift so we were going to pick him up from work and hit the road. We waited for him at what I remember as a closed service station. It was late, dark and I was getting pretty tired. I seem to remember it was around midnight. My grandma had me hop into the back seat to lie down and go to sleep while we traveled (it was the 80’s, who needed seat belts!). I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep while my grandma waited for her husband. That was the last time I saw my grandma.

Everything I know about the next few hours I have pulled from police reports.  As best as they could tell, at approximately 12:40 AM, on an isolated stretch of SR243, we approached a curve at about the same time as an oncoming Camaro. The driver of the Camaro, who had been drinking, had drifted to sleep and crossed over the median. Two cars, both traveling at least 55 miles per hour, with no place to go off either shoulder.

This was my grandma’s car before the accident…

car before accident

This was her car after the accident…

car after accident

Help arrived some time around 1:30 AM. When I woke up I had that “middle of the night” feeling but also a feeling of something wasn’t quite right. First thing I noticed was that I couldn’t move. At this point I started to notice there was a lot of commotion outside the car so I tried to see what was going on by moving my head. It was at this point that someone stuck a flashlight in my face and said “He’s alive!” Everything going on outside seemed to stop and all the attention was immediately on me. It took quite some time for the paramedics to get me out of the car using the jaws of life. Even after they got me out I still had no movement. I could tell by the expressions on the faces of those helping me and the questions they were asking that this was a major concern. It took about an hour to get to the hospital. Once there I was finally able to get some of the details about what had happened. My grandma and her husband had been killed in the crash. And I was one very lucky kid.

Unfortunately, my ordeal was just beginning. I was told that I needed immediate surgery on my right arm. My shoulder and wrist had both been dislocated and my elbow pretty much destroyed. There was a strong possibility I could lose the use of my arm. A couple hour surgery and a few screws later, I was good as…well, good as could be expected. I had also suffered a broken right femur. At the time, compared to my arm, this was considered minor. They placed me in weighted traction to pull my lower leg down to allow the bones to realign so they could set properly.

Lonnie in bed on traction

About a week later, a muscle spasm caused me to move and the pin in my leg to shift. Not weighted correctly, this caused the traction to pull my bone in the wrong direction. Needless to say, this hurt a little. After a couple failed attempts to fix it, the doctors resorted to pulling the traction and putting me into a walking cast.

Lonnie on crutches

Lonnie on crutches 2

I was finally released from the hospital a few weeks later and made my journey back home to Coos Bay.  Once back home, my recovery was long and slow.  I spent much of the next three years on the sidelines of life.  Even being home tutored for half of my 6th grade year.  It doesn’t sound that bad except for the fact that I was tutored because I couldn’t get out of bed due to a three quarter body cast that went from my stomach half way down my left leg and all the way down my right with a bar in between my legs so I couldn’t move.  I ended up having two more surgeries on my leg.  The first to put these in my leg…



The next few years I spent relearning how to walk and run. I was fully released from the doctor in the summer of 1983. Physically, I had lost 3 very important formative years. I was basically a 10 year old trying to compete with teenagers. I had failed to learn so much physically over those 3 years. Mentally, it was much worse. I was scared and timid. Afraid to take chances. And had ZERO confidence in myself or my abilities. Sadly, I carried much of that around with me for the better part of my life. Always afraid to do my best. Always afraid that my best just wasn’t good enough.

In 2012 something changed. I started to want to change. Something was different than all the other times I had tried before. So I ran. Something was different with me. So I ran. I still don’t know what it was but for the first time that I could remember I wanted to be better. So I ran. I wanted to push myself to see just how good I could be. So I ran some more. And the better I got, the more I wanted to push. So I ran even more. And when I can’t run it pisses me off! I was forced to the sidelines for 3 years. Worse, I chose to stay there for 30 years. No more!

I run because for so long I chose sitting on my ass over living life. I run because I refused to give that kid a chance when he needed it. And I run my ass off because that 10 year old boy almost didn’t make it out of that car alive.

Stop living your life in fear. Take a chance. Chase your dreams. Even better…catch them! They say you only live once. Bullshit! You only die once. You live EVERY. DAMN. DAY! Don’t you dare let some self imposed boundaries keep you from the best you that you can be. It’s going to hurt. Hell, it’s going to hurt a lot. But you’ll live and you’ll be a better person for it.

Run hard!


15 thoughts on “Don’t Waste Your Second Chance!

  1. Truly an inspiring story! Drunk driving has devastated many lives and your story is proof that it’s aftermath reaches far beyond the accident and the physical recovery for those lucky enough to survive. I am a paramedic and have seen these things first hand which is why I’m running this summer for MADD to raise money for victim support that they offer. Thanks for sharing your story.


  2. Wow. That is amazing and inspiring. For that to happen to someone so young is hard to understand, but it sounds like you handled it well. Use it to push yourself farther and keep running!

  3. Amazing story Lonni. Thank you for sharing. My favorite part, “you only die once, you live every damn day.” I will not forget that. I am glad our paths crossed though Andy and I am happy to be following you along on your journey. Continue to do what you do, be happy and healthy and never stop running!

  4. Absolutely. We only get one go around best to do it up right and enjoy every DAMN day! I am sorry for the loss of your grandmother and grandfather so tragically. Kudos to you!!

  5. You have inspired so many and inspire me every single day. I am honored to be your wife and know this is just the beginning of your journey to greatness. ♥♥

  6. Wow. I certainly don’t need to tell you about Coos Bay’s most famous son, but it’s clear you’ve got a whole lot of his spirit. Write on, run on!

  7. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you online, but is going to be an absolute honor to shake the hand of the man that wrote this amazing story of perserverence. “Live every damn day!”

    See you at Broad St.

  8. Wow, is all I can say, you put into words the world of so many people.. Your ordeal made you choose the side lines and I know you were not alone there as so many in life went through their own ordeals and they chose the same life. Glad you finally found something that made you want to live on the field instead of the sidelines. Hope that anyone else doing that can find something in them that will bring them off the benches also.

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