West Palm Beach (CBS12) — Everybody has their own back story at the FITTEAM Palm Beaches Marathon, or motivation that keeps them pushing towards that finish line. Paul Totman will be racing in his 18th marathon this weekend in West Palm Beach, representing the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, showcasing a sport that he says saved his life.
"Nothing's bothering you, you're just watching the wheel and the ground going by," describes Totman of what it's like racing in a marathon. "And you're waving, and you're hearing people, and it's a thrill that's really exhilarating."
It's a feeling Totman never thought he'd experience again. The 20-year military combat veteran has dealt with multiple severe leg injuries suffered in active duty, injuries that on top of his P-T-S-D severely changed the person he was.
"If you'd met me you'd (have said) you're just to mean of a person," recalls Totman. "I don't want to talk to you."
The most severe injury eventually led to his right leg being amputated in 2015, relieving him of almost unbearable pain, and opening his mind to hand cycling.
"It changed my life completely, from being a person who's an introvert a hermit," explains Totman. "It was just like this was made for me, I love it!"
Paul's new found feeling of freedom*was largely inspired by his coach Jaquui Kapinowski, who's competed in over 90 marathons herself, despite losing the use of her legs in her 30's.
"To see that work and just to see that smile on (his) face, so happy," says Kapinowski. "And being a member of the freedom team," adds Totman. "And knowing that other veterans are looking at you."
That's something Totman will especially have on his mind the entire race, hoping he can change other's lives as well,
"If they see that I can do it. They can do the same thing."