As Scott Bragan raced toward New York City's Central Park, the pain-body began to tear at his training, his goals, his determination and — most important — his Achilles' tendon.
He longed to finish the New York City Marathon as he sat in the medic tent next to one of the famed Chilean miners, who also needed aid. But a doctor who examined Bragan's torn Achilles' declared his day over.
As Bragan, 43, sat dejected, he thought about all the 4 a.m. training runs. He thought about "finish strong," the motto he borrowed from Jeff Wagner, a mutual friend who continues to persevere through a battle with cancer.
And then Bragan called upon his mix of "stupidity and tenacity," rose up from his seat and finished the final 6.2 miles. The pain he endured after the race made him vow this was his 12th and final marathon.
By the way, Bragan, who lives in South Tampa, and 21 Tampa Bay friends will run in the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9.
What happened? When you learn about the abiding love he has for his wife, Erika, and his profound calling to help others, you begin to understand why he has shelved the vow and resumed training.
Like 600,000 other Americans, Erika, 40, suffers from polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, a genetic ailment with no cure and no treatment beyond dialysis and transplants.
The most common life-threatening genetic disease in America, it causes fluid-filled cysts to develop on both kidneys. Over time, the cysts grow.
"She's doing okay," Bragan said of his wife, who played volleyball at Gaither High and the University of South Florida, where they met as students. "We're starting to see the disease take its toll. She now has high blood pressure.
"Some nights she can't eat dinner because she's nauseous."
Bragan has committed to donating a kidney — he's a match — when the time comes. In the interim, he runs to raise money for the PKD Foundation, which raises money for treatment, awareness and patient advocacy.
In 2009 he and nine runners raised $26,500 for the foundation. The foundation called and asked for more help this year, but with the pain of a torn tendon still fresh in his mind, he respectfully declined.
It called again, stirring that stupidity-tenacity chemical within.
Now Bragan aims to double the 2009 total and raise more than $50,000. He has built Team Tampa PKD into a crew of 22, drawing runners from South Tampa, New Tampa and Lutz.
In addition to the training, they have set up a number of fundraisers around town.
Everyone who hears his story and meets his wife and their two children, 10-year-old Madison and 7-year-old Spencer, wants to help.
Wibke Rees, wife of South Tampa Fellowship senior pastor Craig Rees, will run with Bragan. So, too, will Alyssa Richter, a First Watch waiter who joined when Bragan and other runners went to the restaurant after a training run.
"It's almost like a ministry," Bragan said. "We're like a close-knit family. I'm amazed at how many people have stepped forward. It's truly overwhelming."
You know, I don't think there is an ounce of stupidity-tenacity running through Bragan's veins.
I think it's love.
That's all I'm saying.