When Alex Rogan, a commercial airline pilot from Phoenix, Arizona, was involved in a near-fatal auto accident four years ago, his doctors told him that his days as a runner were over.
After all, they'd had to amputate both of Alex's legs, and his arms. Eventually, due to complications, his torso had to go as well. The active father of two, a veteran of seven marathons and one Ironman Triathlon, found himself living the life of a head in a jar.
"He was so depressed," said Alex's wife, Gina. "He'd just sit there, immersed in oxygen-rich fluid, staring at the TV. It was sad."
And then something changed.
"One day," Gina said, "I woke up and Alex told me, via a computer that's able to read his brain waves and translate his thoughts to text, that he wanted to run another marathon."
RUNNER NO GIVE UP, the text read. WANT RUN.
"I just looked at him and cried," said Gina. "I think he was crying a little too."
"It was hard to tell. Because of all the fluid."
With that, Alex embarked on months of grueling physical therapy, "learning" to run again but this time without a body. Fate delivered another setback in March when he experienced acute head failure during a training run—but after a successful brain extraction, Alex was back on the road within a week.
"Nothing was going to stop Alex," said Gina. "He was set on running this marathon."
Last weekend, he did just that, proving the naysayers wrong and inspiring spectators and fellow runners along the way. Alex crossed the finish line of the Vancouver USA Marathon in Vancouver, Washington, in 6 hours 22 minutes 19 seconds.
"Truly an inspiration," said Grace Hightower, who was watching the runners near the finish line. "If a brain in a jar can finish a marathon, maybe I can too."
As for Alex, he's already eyeing another race. Figuratively.
WANT SHAVE 20 MINUTE, he told his wife via text after accepting his finisher's medal.
At the time, however, he had more pressing needs.
GO LOOK CHEESEBURGER AND BEER, he said. WANT.