Editor's Note: This gunshot wound story was originally published in September of 2017
What started as a routine, early morning training run turned into a life-threatening encounter for 44-year-old James Rathbun.
In Cedar Hill, Texas, just outside of Dallas, Rathbun was in his tapering stage preparing for the Spartan Beast race in Breckenridge, Colorado. He had been training since January, and this day, like many other days before, he slipped on a weighted vest before stepping out of his home. On August 22, a little after 5 a.m., Rathbun took his dog and started running.
After running some laps near his home, he popped by his house to grab some coffee and put his dog, PupPup, back inside. When he headed out again for a few more rounds, coffee cup in tow, Rathbun passed a man on the sidewalk.
He said, “Hey, good morning,” and kept going. When the other man stopped to turn around, Rathbun figured he was just going to ask for directions. With earbuds in, it was hard to hear.
“He says something that I thought was, ‘give me your water,’ and I just said, ‘Well, I don’t have any water, I just have this coffee cup,’” Rathbun said. “Then he slaps me, and I'm in shock. That's definitely not a way to greet a neighbor.”
The man asked Rathbun the same question and slapped him again. Rathbun took his earphones out to hear the man was actually asking for his wallet.
When Rathbun said he didn’t have it with them, an altercation ensued. Rathbun swung his Yeti cup full of coffee at him, fell in between two cars, and then heard two gun shots without feeling anything at first. The man circled the car, looked down at Rathbun, and ran off.
Rathbun called 911 as he hobbled home, bleeding along the sidewalk. His wife woke up to find him stumbling in the door, saying he had been shot and needed her to put pressure on the wound with a towel.
“She got a towel and gave it to me, but then she ran around like a chicken with her head cut off,” Rathbun said, laughing. “I thought okay, well, I’ll put the pressure on myself.”
After he talked with the police and the paramedics took him to the hospital to treat his gunshot wound, Rathbun realized he had actually been shot twice. One bullet went through his shoulder and out his back, inside his scapula, and the second stopped in his weighted vest. The Spartan training tool ended up saving his life.
Rathbun ran the Spartan race Saturday, August 26, just four days after the shooting. Bruised and bandaged, he dropped from the competitive race and moved to the open series, knowing he’d have to take the 12 miles easier than originally planned. Having done Breckenridge the year before, Rathbun said this year’s obstacles were much easier, for which he‘s very grateful. He finished his 10th Spartan race in 4:06:54.
Rathbun is still battling swelling, discomfort, and bruising, but that doesn‘t dampen his sense of humor or drive to complete another race. He plans to run the Dallas Ultra Beast in October later this year.
While he is healing nicely, his shooter has yet to be caught.
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