DRAPER — On Aug 17, 2019, Austin Patten of Draper was out for a bike ride when he was struck by a car, causing him to be paralyzed from the waist down.
An athlete his entire life, Patten recalled waking up in the hospital after four days of being intubated and saying, "I’m going to do an Ironman."
Nearly one year after his accident, Patten is closer to his goal thanks to the help of three men and a 300-mile-long fundraiser in the Bear River and Wasatch Mountain ranges.
Earlier in July, ultra-runners, Ben Light, Michael McKnight and Dax Hock decided to embark on an epic journey through the wilderness.
All three are accomplished ultra-runners who had racing goals for 2020 that were foiled due to COVID-19. Looking for a replacement for the races lost, the trio decided on running a 300-mile course that would link up the Bear River and Wasatch Mountain ranges.
The event was named the BRAWL as an acronym for the course, and now the three men were ready to go. But there was something missing. That something was a purpose beyond their desire to adventure in the mountains. It was then when Light remembered a friend of his who was in need of some help. That friend was Patten.
"A couple of years ago, I met Austin when we were on the same Ragnar team," Light said. "We were running to raise money for Neuroworx, which is a nonprofit physical therapy clinic that helps individuals with spinal cord injuries. Now Austin is a patient of Neuroworx, and it felt right to be helping him during his time of need."
The money raised would go toward purchasing a racing wheelchair and pay for a coach for Patten's training to both prevent further injury and to help him reach his goal. According to Patten, he is grateful for these men for thinking of him and he looks forward to being able to move forward despite the many setbacks he has experienced.
"I have cried several times when I’ve thought about the generosity of each of these men," Patten wrote in an email. "I didn’t know how we would be able to afford coaching or buy a racing wheelchair and this will open the door to purchase these things and get on the path to competition."
The 300-mile run for Austin
The forging of that path, aka, "The BRAWL" took place over a 4 ½ day period beginning on July 20, when Light, McKnight and Hock embarked on their journey.
The run started at the shores of Bear Lake in Fish Haven Idaho, then to the Great Western Trail through the Wasatch Mountains, and ended at Soldier Hollow in Midway. According to all three men, the experience taught them all lessons they needed to learn.
McKnight who said he is often wound a little tight when it comes to running and racing, said he learned patience, and a deeper love for the mountains.
"I am what you might say a little rigid in my training, and I am always aware of my watch," McKnight said. "Things didn’t go as expected as far as pace went, and I found myself getting frustrated. As the time went by, I learned to be patient and enjoy the journey more.
Hock had to drop from the run 100-miles in, and said that he learned the importance of trying and failing, as well as teamwork.
"Dropping out of the run was a hard thing to do, but it's true that it is better to have failed to have never tried at all," Hock said. "I didn’t let my fear of failure stop my ability to try. Even though I didn’t complete the course, it was important to help the other two, so I came back with my family to help crew and cheer Ben and Mike on to the finish."
Light said he learned perseverance through trials, and said that he was continually inspired by Patten the whole way.
"With about 25 miles to go, my quad seized up, and I wasn’t able to run," Light said. "The thought of quitting wasn’t an option because I kept thinking about Austin, and how he doesn’t even have the use of his legs to walk, let alone run. I had to walk those last 20 miles, and Mike walked them with me. I learned perspective and the value of helping others through challenging times."
All three men said that adding the fundraising efforts for Patten to their run, gave them a greater purpose beyond themselves, and the men were able to raise over $10,000 of their $18,000 goal to help their friend.
To learn more about Patten's story and to help him reach his financial goal, putting him closer toward becoming an Ironman triathlete, a funding page has been set up at Kogalla.com.