Glenn Cunningham, From Severely Burned Legs To A World Record Track Runner

Glenn Cunningham

Glenn Cunningham, From Severely Burned Legs To A World Record Track Runner

Glenn Cunningham – With severely burned legs that showed no strength, Glenn never lose hope he could walk again. His undying belief, made him as one of the world’s record track runners. He was about to get amputated, but his mom refused to let the surgeon operate on him. Every day, his dad and mom would massage his legs.

Glenn did not quit, amidst the pain and the difficulty. Instead of just walking, he was seen running beside the wagon across the fields.

Here is Glenn’s story

The schoolhouse followed a simple first-to-arrive task for everyone – the first student who arrives at the school should start the fire of the schoolhouse stove. The schoolhouse stove looks like an antique stove or a vintage stove. This single pot bellied stove is located against the back wall of the room or some other parts of the room and is used to provide heat for the school oftentimes fed with large wood. The students were responsible in feeding the stove first thing in the morning and during the day.

The Cunninghams (Floyd, Rosa and Glenn) arrived early, so it was their responsibility to start the fire on that day. Floyd, being the eldest, started the fire. He placed dried cow chips over the dead ashes and then poured the gasoline into the fireplace.

An explosive gust of flames struck him full force in the chest and abdomen. While Glenn, who was in another aisle, found his pants ignited by the flames. The clothes of both boys were on fire.

What started the fire? The literary club met there the night before that dreadful day and left some burning embers in the stove which Floyd thought were plain ashes. Somebody also poured gasoline into the gallon to light the schoolhouse for the night meeting including the lamps of the members going home. The gasoline was poured into the five gallon can that was expected to normally contain just kerosene.

Letha, who did not enter the classroom yet, was sitting on the swing just outside the windows. She got alerted when she saw two balls of fire rolling toward the door after the explosion and thought they were her brothers. She opened the door and helped them get out of the room.

As soon as they got out, Floyd instructed to put out the fire by throwing sand on them. Sand and dirt were deeply embedded in the flesh of both boys.

The children then ran home across the pasture and down the road that were marked by deep ruts created by wagon wheels and sandbanks along the sides that were several feet high. Their home was two miles away. They ran, but the boys’ saturated clothing continued to fire.

The two boys were severely burned. The town could not possibly convey what was in the minds of the children running two miles home and still coping with the smoldering fires on their bodies. The children were afraid their dad would be made liable for the schoolhouse fire and damages, which is the reason they ran the full distance home.

Floyd’s kidneys were burned. The doctor said it was cooked. He had third degree burns that reached his body cavity. The sensory nerves were destroyed and the pain was intolerable.

Glenn’s burns were mostly on his legs and he was crying in pain. In all the painful accidents, one of which he had injured his feet and ankles from the fall that remained weak in his running days, he never came into terms with pain like a severe burn. In that fall, his transverse arch was broken and he was never able to come up on his toes. The pain was virtually intolerable!

Glenn Cunningham

Floyd, being the eldest, told Glenn stories that would lure him into forgetting his pain. Floyd never loses his head no matter what the emergency and he was there for his brother amidst his pain. For nine days, he sang songs and talk to Glenn, simply taking care of his brother and forgetting himself. On the ninth day, Floyd died.

On the other hand, Glenn had absolutely no strength in both legs. He found himself unable to walk. The prolonged bed rest contributed to significant weakness in his legs combined with the damage and loss of muscle along with its blood supply. In addition, there could have been damage to his nerve supply that made the legs virtually useless.

The doctor told Glenn Cunningham he cannot walk again, but it did not shake his confidence even a bit. He was convinced he would walk again.

One day, his mother wheeled him out to the yard for some fresh air. Instead of just sitting there, he threw himself from the chair, pulled himself across the grass and dragged his legs. He worked his way to the fence and made the fence his support as he raised himself up. Stake by stake, he dragged himself along the fence. He did this every day.

During his recovery, he used to grab the mules by the tail and run behind them so the animals can give him more support on his legs. More and more Glenn ran.

Sometimes he would hold onto the wagon gate and saw his feet dragged more than he was able to run. As long as his feet covered the ground, running gave him joy. After a while, he was running without holding to anything. Eventually, he was seen running for miles.

The neighbors were amazed to see such perseverance and endurance. For Glenn Cunningham, it was just the mindset that there was nothing he couldn’t do or learn to do. It was a mindset that he would never quit and lose. Learn more about inspiring good news stories.


American Miller: The life and times of Glenn Cunningham by Paul Kiell

Video by Public Domain Footage

Video by Aishvideo


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