Any one of the 200 people participating in a charity race on Saturday who was tempted to feel sorry for themselves as they ran in the rain and cold had only to look at Harry Freedman, with his left leg amputated above the knee and wrapped in sterile white bandages, to know they had a reason to push on and finish. Freedman was humbled by the show of support but never let his competitive spirit wane as he rolled to the race's end in one of the first packs of finishers.
"I'm so glad that so many people showed up. How I feel about this, is just amazing," said Freedman. He competed in the race on a three-wheeled bicycle.
Just a few months ago, a 50,000-pound front-loader crushed his leg. Freedman had his accident in the first week of June and was back in the gym by the second week of August. Despite dozens of surgeries, doctors were unable to save his leg.
Freedman is the vice president of Auto Recyclers of Leesburg. Members of the club describe Freedman as "an executive who does hands-on labor."
Freedman credits regular exercise for saving his life during the accident and giving him something to work toward now that he is an amputee. He's a loyal 24-year member of the Sport and Health Club in Tysons Corner. The facility helped organize the event, called the Super H, to raise money for a variety of sport legs, artificial limbs specifically designed for different sports, to get Freedman back on the track, in the pool and on the court.
"I DON'T KNOW how far I can go but when I get a prosthesis I hope to swim, bike, run and compete in some triathlons," said Freedman.
Sharon Bigler has never met Freedman, but when a friend at work told her about his strength and courage and his intention to participate in the race just months after loosing his leg, she agreed to join. "When you see Harry, and hear about his story, how could you not do this? He's out there not complaining so we can't say anything about a little rain and wind," said Bigler.
Will Simkins is a spin class instructor at the Sport and Health Club who has known Freedman for more than a year. "Harry is an amazing guy. He was before this happened to him," said Simkins. "When he went out four months ago, he was back in 90 days. That's just incredible. He's in the class cycling with one leg."
"It saved my life," said Freedman of his regular exercise routine. "I get there at 5:30 in the morning and exercise with a group. We've been doing it for years," said Freedman. In fact, the Oak Hill resident starts his day much earlier at 3 a.m. by tending to and feeding his menagerie of animals.
Freedman is also known for combining his physical strength with his personal ideals. In June 2003, Freedman and his daughter Erin biked with Team DC to raise money for AIDS research. The pair raised in excess of $6,000 by bicycling from Raleigh, N.C. to Washington, D.C., 350 miles in three days. They had planned an even longer trek from Montreal to Boston in August but were derailed when the accident happened.
Freedman is also a card-carrying Aphersis Hero for the American Red Cross. That status is conferred to people who, over an extended period of time, make regular blood and platelet donations.
Bertie Springer came from California to participate in the race. She's Freedman's sister-in-law. Springer said her whole family has moved by show of support for the health club community and from friends. "I almost cried when I saw all the people out here, especially in the rain and with weather like this," Springer said as she walked the circular course that went around Greensboro Drive in Tysons Corner several times.
"I know what it takes to organize a race like this. It's not an easy thing to do. They coordinated the police, the volunteers, everything, very quickly. The sport center has been right there with him through this," Springer said. Not only were police officers stationed around the course to keep automobiles from interfering with the course but several fire trucks and fire fighters were on hand as well.
"Harry is impatient. He wants the prosthesis already. He really is unstoppable. I told him he's got a 3-month-old baby right now," Springer said in reference to his altered physical condition. "Just wait until it's been a year. He will be doing everything, and really, probably more, than he did before," said Springer.
The Super H race raised the money needed to purchase new legs for Freedman.