The power of determination (true story)

by Stephen on August 29, 2012 · 66 comments

in Awakening, True Stories

A true story about athlete Glenn Cunningham who was horribly burned in a schoolhouse fire at the age of 8. Doctors predicted he would never walk again. Determined to walk, Glenn would throw himself off his wheelchair and pull his body across the yard and along a fence. Twenty-two months later, he took his first steps and through sheer determination, learned to run despite the pain…

The little country schoolhouse was heated by an old-fashioned, pot-bellied coal stove. A little boy had the job of coming to school early each day to start the fire and warm the room before his teacher and his classmates arrived.

One morning they arrived to find the schoolhouse engulfed in flames. They dragged the unconscious little boy out of the flaming building more dead than alive. He had major burns over the lower half of his body and was taken to a nearby county hospital.

From his bed the dreadfully burned, semi-conscious little boy faintly heard the doctor talking to his mother. The doctor told his mother that her son would surely die – which was for the best, really – for the terrible fire had devastated the lower half of his body.

But the brave boy didn’t want to die. He made up his mind that he would survive. Somehow, to the amazement of the physician, he did survive. When the mortal danger was past, he again heard the doctor and his mother speaking quietly. The mother was told that since the fire had destroyed so much flesh in the lower part of his body, it would almost be better if he had died, since he was doomed to be a lifetime cripple with no use at all of his lower limbs.

Once more the brave boy made up his mind. He would not be a cripple. He would walk. But unfortunately from the waist down, he had no motor ability. His thin legs just dangled there, all but lifeless.

Ultimately he was released from the hospital. Every day his mother would massage his little legs, but there was no feeling, no control, nothing. Yet his determination that he would walk was as strong as ever.

When he wasn’t in bed, he was confined to a wheelchair. One sunny day his mother wheeled him out into the yard to get some fresh air. This day, instead of sitting there, he threw himself from the chair. He pulled himself across the grass, dragging his legs behind him.

He worked his way to the white picket fence bordering their lot. With great effort, he raised himself up on the fence. Then, stake by stake, he began dragging himself along the fence, resolved that he would walk. He started to do this every day until he wore a smooth path all around the yard beside the fence. There was nothing he wanted more than to develop life in those legs.

Ultimately through his daily massages, his iron persistence and his resolute determination, he did develop the ability to stand up, then to walk haltingly, then to walk by himself – and then – to run.

He began to walk to school, then to run to school, to run for the sheer joy of running. Later in college he made the track team.

Still later in Madison Square Garden this young man who was not expected to survive, who would surely never walk, who could never hope to run – this determined young man, Dr. Glenn Cunningham, ran the world’s fastest mile**!

Story Told By Burt Dubin,
Developer of Speaking Success System.

**On June 16, 1934, Glenn Cunningham ran the mile in 4:06.8 minutes, breaking the world’s record. His effort portrays that whatever you want to create in your life is yours for the making. As long as you desire it enough and allow your will to guide you, you can have and be whatever your heart desires. The only one that can put limits on our personal will is ourselves. Develop and encourage your will to create and all the forces of nature within and without will help you bring your desire to pass.

Life Summary:

  • 8 years old, was horribly burned in a schoolhouse fire. Doctors predicted he would never walk again.
  • 22 months later, took his first steps and through sheer determination, learned to run despite the pain.
  • In high school, set records for the mile and later attended Kansas University.
  • While at Kansas, refused all scholarship money, preferring to pay his own way.
  • By sophomore year, ran the 1,500 meter race at the 1932 Olympics, but finished fourth due to a severe cold.
  • By senior year, set a world record for the mile of 4:06.8 and held seven of the top 13 fastest recorded times for the mile.
  • In 1936, voted “Most Popular Athlete” by his fellow athletes.
  • He went on to earn a master’s degree from University of Iowa and later a doctorate from New York University.
  • While in New York, won 21 of 31 races at Madison Square Gardens and set an indoor mile record there in 1938.  His fastest mile time was 4:04.4 at a Dartmouth track meet in 1938.
  • When the 1940 Olympics were cancelled, he retired from his running career and taught at Cornell College in Iowa.
  • During World War II, he served two years in the Navy.
  • Spent the remainder of his life running the Glenn Cunningham Youth Ranch for troubled kids in Kansas, USA.  It is estimated that he and his wife raised around 9,000 kids on their ranch in the years until his death in 1988.

Glenn Cunningham Images:

Cunningham at 1936 Games.


Glenn Cunningham and Wife at Their Range.


More Reading:

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ashokhooli August 30, 2012 at 7:11 am

Thank you excellent true story which can guide the youth who are in trouble. Thanks to the website.

2 Madhav August 31, 2012 at 6:00 am

Fantastic. Really inspiring.

3 Noeme D. Catayas September 1, 2012 at 6:46 am

I love this line: whatever you want to create in your life is yours for the making. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.

4 Pradeep September 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Really inspiring and unbelievable. I am not sure if the Cunningham Road in Bangalore is named after him. Pls confirm.

5 Romit Roy September 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

The story of real man filled with determination!!!!

If we try hard………………nothing is impossible!!…(y)

6 Sushil Kumar Gupta September 8, 2012 at 9:00 am

Unexpected & unimaginable act of Glen Cunningham with strong confidence…

7 Amitesh Biswas September 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Thanks 4 such a real motivational story.

8 Chandra September 11, 2012 at 1:37 am

Good reading after a long time.

9 Amit verma September 13, 2012 at 3:51 am

After reading this story my feeling is alive again… Thanx a lot….

10 Sushil Sharma September 16, 2012 at 4:21 am

I read this story and knew about power of determination.

11 Chetana September 18, 2012 at 5:37 am

I can say that God has given all power within us. We have to just recognize it…..

12 Kv11 September 20, 2012 at 11:53 am

Thanks for the nice story. Real moral boosting stuff.

13 Rajeshkumar September 23, 2012 at 11:32 am

Great inspirational fact…

14 Shivlal Tiwari September 25, 2012 at 8:48 am

Obstacles are there…but…nothing is impossible…!

15 Harish September 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

It’s truly an inspiring story. I have learnt the lesson to never give up by studying this story.

16 Canpara Harriet September 27, 2012 at 5:53 am

It’s so touching and much more encouraging, he indeed never let words take him down.

17 Rossi October 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm

This is one true feeling i do understand.

18 Shagun Aryan October 3, 2012 at 6:25 am

Heart touching story…

19 Vandana Jain October 17, 2012 at 8:00 am

Really Inspirational..

20 Bipul October 21, 2012 at 5:17 am

Salute to Glenn Cunningham.. Hatts off.

21 Dennie November 3, 2012 at 12:31 am

I was inspired. Nice story. I was wholly motivated to keep on going despite of life’s challenges along my way.

22 Hannah November 3, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Amazing story ! Just beautiful.

23 Nivetha November 10, 2012 at 11:55 am

Really, inspiring story……

24 Ashish kumar November 15, 2012 at 8:46 am

This man is the real Hero…

25 Sumera January 20, 2013 at 8:40 am

It’s really heart touchy and beautiful story.

26 Zohra March 7, 2013 at 9:21 am

Heart touching story.

27 Mohan March 23, 2013 at 2:45 am

Nothing is impossible. Truly inspiring. Win never escapes from us if we have full determination.

28 Rajshekhar April 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Determination is everything!

29 DJ April 11, 2013 at 2:11 am

My age is 20 and am just about to finish my graduation. I am an aspiring actor, people say its nearly impossible for u to become an actor as it needs good contacts in the industry. But after reading this wonderful story it touched my heart and got lump in my throat. And have decided no matter what happens I will stay focussed and determined towards my aim. Thnks!!!

30 Carl May 10, 2013 at 7:49 am

Thanks to the website. I like it so much. Really amazing!

31 Ar2x June 4, 2013 at 5:30 am

So amazing! I can’t wait to share this. So thankful to read this page.

32 Ammu July 25, 2013 at 6:49 am

So amazing story I will share it to all my friends.

33 Darshan Manjappa August 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Thank you so much for a such wonderful inspiring story…

Another best example for Swami Vivekananda quote “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, that is way great spiritual giants are produced.”

34 Shamim September 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Very inspiring!! I wish we could all have such a strong will power to do anything in life. Firstly to understand the existence of God and second to think positive and not to give up easily.

35 Paranthaman.R September 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm

It is a fantastic story for determination. If we hold any determination, following that and working hard. Really it will end in success. Everybody takes result from third person voice for them, not neglecting them.

36 Apurva September 12, 2013 at 5:14 am

Life is all about what you create out of it… Awe inspiring..

37 Anand September 16, 2013 at 8:40 am

Thank you very much great inspiration…. say yourself “I can do it” it will be reality sooner or later, move with goal and plan.

38 Tom October 28, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Stories like these show that even though I think that my life might be utter shit sometimes it could never be as bad as these people, and these people toke there problems and made the best out of them! Always stay strong, never quit. “Winners never quit, quitters never win.”

39 Vijay November 7, 2013 at 3:23 am

Leaves me with a very clear difference between Hope and Determination, Between wishful Thinking and Thinking.

40 Neliuis November 13, 2013 at 10:59 am

I am really inspired for me from what I have read I believe I’ve made it.

41 Vijay chopra May 17, 2014 at 12:45 am

Do not have words to tell. Really it is an inspirational Story……

42 Mohd hassan June 30, 2014 at 3:27 am

Inspiring lot

43 Malancha kalita July 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Man born not to be defeated.

44 Michael Nartey-Tokoki August 22, 2014 at 11:54 am

I’m really really inspired.

45 Ajay Ranawat November 19, 2014 at 8:31 am

Thanks for posting this wonderful and really motivating story. A personl thanks to all for your good comments too. God bless and make our dreams come true with our nonstoppable will.

46 Jason Kim November 23, 2014 at 5:44 am

This is really motivational! So good! Thank you for writing this story!

47 Shashikumar.M. December 3, 2014 at 4:37 am

Great…….power of determination and commitment ……..great experience to be shared with those who are disappointed.

48 Sanjay, shimla December 18, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Indelible n innovative story of a legendary n versatile persona who defied d odds n set up an epitome of salvatiön to d ebulient youth.

49 Dr Yehya Al Marzouqi January 4, 2015 at 2:55 pm

What an inspiring story. The “can do mentality” and not taking “NO” for an answer can make us make the impossible possible.

50 Aishwarya February 17, 2015 at 5:59 am

One Can do anything as long as the will and desire is alive….
Very inspiring story=)

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