One year after falling from a 100 foot cliff, Fox Valley man prepares for half-marathon

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 5:40 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The countdown is on for a Fox Valley man to check off yet one more goal on his list -- run a half-marathon.

That might not sound impossible to some, but it sure does knowing one year ago, he was told he may never even walk again.

If Chris Rand could pick only one way to describe his last year, he should probably go with perseverance.

“Twelve months ago, I didn’t know if I’d walk again,” says Rand.

Then again, determination works, too.

“I landed head first... on rocks!” says Rand.

But really -- all-around-tough-dude is a whole lot more accurate way to describe Rand.

“My neck was broken. My back was broken. A lot of my body was broken,” he says.

In August of 2020, Rand and his wife of only two months were camping at Wildcat Mountain State Park in Vernon County, crossing off state park number 24 in their quest to visit them all.

He wanted to see the stars and climbed to an observation area known for breathtaking views.

“It’s a mountain. There’s no light pollution. With the naked eye, you could almost see the Milky Way,” says Rand.

He remembers dozing off for awhile, but awoke in the darkness, needing a bathroom.

“Instead of stepping into the woods, I stepped off a cliff,” says Rand.

He plunged 100 feet into darkness.

“It was kind of like this weird moment of weightlessness, then a white hot explosion of pain,” he recalls.

With no one else around and his phone still at the top of the cliff, Rand saw headlights in the distance and knew the only way to help was finding it on his own.

It took him one hour to stumble one mile with a broken back and broken neck.

“Then I saw a house and I went and knocked on the door and somebody came to the door, and I said please call help and I collapsed,” says Rand.

At a trauma center in La Crosse, doctors prepared his wife for the worst.

“There’s a good chance he may never walk again. (You’ll) probably want to start looking at care homes,” Rand says.

But that wasn’t an option for the 46-year old retired marine.

After surgery, doctors told him he could try to walk.

Challenge accepted.

“Just pushing it as far as I could,” says Rand, of his will to put one foot in front of the other and just go.

By October first, he could walk almost a quarter-mile, but recovery from each walk took days.

“The Ice Age Trail had the Ice Age Mammoth Challenge. They were turning 40 years old in the month of October,” says Rand, smiling. “They said if you hike 40 miles in the month of October, you’ll earn a badge.”

You bet he earned that badge.

By Memorial Day, he set his sights on running a 5K.

“I got done with that and before the day was done, I said, okay, Fox Valley half-marathon, here I come.”

This weekend, 13 months after falling off that cliff, he’s lining up to run 13.1 miles in the ThedaCare Half Marathon, a part of the Community First Fox Cities Marathon weekend of events.

“We always say our race is more than a physical sports event,” says race director Tara Perre. “It’s all about providing a platform to people to dream and reach their goals and do things they never thought possible. When I hear a story like Chris’, it just gives me goosebumps.”

“Our mind is what stops us from accomplishing most of what we want to accomplish in life,” says Rand.

That’s probably how he was still able to graduate with an MBA during all of this.

“I’m going to keep setting more goals and crushing those goals,” says Rand.

He’s already got another goal in mind.

“Ultramarathon training plans. What do those look like?” says Rand, with a sly grin.

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