John Gravino has overcome a lot to compete in the first segment of today’s Akron Marathon Relay Race.
When he was 22, Gravino was involved in a car accident in 1989 that resulted in the amputation of his left leg above the knee.
But that has not stopped the Sagamore Hills man from competing in races. This will mark the second time he has competed in Akron’s relay race.
He has competed in track and field events for Disabled Sports USA as well as many Northeast Ohio two-mile and 5K events.
“When [the crash] happened I was depressed,” said Gravino.
But he had a lot of help in turning his life around.
“As I was going through this new experience, my family, friends, prosthetist and doctor had contacted other amputees to counsel with me,” he said. “These caring people wanted to make sure I had a good support system.”
With the help of prosthetics, physical therapy and hard work, he learned to walk again.
Gravino said he was inspired by other amputee athletes to regain an active lifestyle.
During the race he’ll use a custom- designed prosthetic leg made specifically by the Hanger Clinic for sprinting and distance events.
As the regional coordinator for Amputee Empowerment Partners, sponsored by the clinic, Gravino offers peer guidance and support for other amputees, their families and caregivers.
Gravino is more than willing to share his story.
“Losing a limb is overwhelming, but there is help out there to successfully adjust to life with limb loss,” said Gravino.
He said the important thing is to seek help.
“Some great people were able to visit with me and that made all the difference.”
Today’s marathon could make for some tricky traffic in and around downtown Akron.
City officials say the circuitous route will cause traffic disruptions in various parts of the city.
The marathon will begin downtown at 7 a.m.
The early finishers will wrap up the race shortly after 9 a.m. and the course will remain open through the early afternoon for the late finishers.
For the safety of those running the race, several streets will be closed for all or part of the marathon. The 10th annual running of the event is expected to draw 15,000 participants.
The post-race celebration — along with the awards ceremony — will be at Canal Park.
Admission to the stadium on Main Street is free. There will be live music on the main stage, concessions and live coverage of the entire race course on the field’s big screen.
The runners will enter through the center-field wall and cross the finish line before rounding the bases for various activities, including picking up their medals and getting pictures taken.
Given past performances, organizers expect runners to pour into the stadium between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
View coverage of the marathon over the years at www.ohio.com/akronmarathon.
Beacon Journal reporter Paula Schleis contributed to this report.