By Shane Stokes
Showing again that he is moving on from the 2006 crash which threatened his life, Saul Raisin will run the New York City Marathon on Sunday. The former Crédit Agricole rider has been in training for the event, and will use it to build towards the longer term goal of competing in the Hawaii Ironman next October.
"My goal is to run the whole thing, only stopping for water. I love the challenge, I love to test myself," he told Cyclingnews. "I want to show the world that you can overcome a brain injury, and to never give up hope. This will be my first step to the Ironman in Hawaii next year."
Raisin will join several other former professionals in the famed long-distance race. 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, former Tour stage victor Jeff Pierce, women's Tour stage winner Tanja Slater and former British Champion Brian Smith will run with cancer survivor Geoff Thomas in the 26.2 mile event, raising funds for the latter's foundation.
Raisin's participation in the race will also generate publicity for his own foundation, Raisin Hope.
Now 25, the Dalton, Georgia native got his professional career off to a strong start when he won the King of the Mountains jersey in the 2005 Tour de l'Avenir, as well as finishing 13th in the Tour of Austria and 37th in the Tour de Suisse.
The following spring he won a mountain stage of the Tour de Langkawi and finished eleventh overall in the Malaysian race. He was seventeenth in the Tour of California, but then suffered a catastrophic crash close to the end of the first stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe. That fall left him in a coma for several days. Raisin confounded his doctor's expectations by returning to cycling and competing in the 2007 US time trial national championships.
However, on medical advice, he and his Crédit Agricole team ultimately agreed that a return to the peloton would be too dangerous.
A change in direction has kept him focused since then. "I have been taking motivational speech classes, working a lot on the Raisin Hope Foundation, riding, swimming, and running a lot," he said. "The foundation is going well. My recent charity ride raised over 30,000 dollars for TBI [traumatic brain injury], even if we are still trying to get on our feet." Raisin said that he hasn't reconsidered his decision to walk away from professional cycling. "I always say that sports are part of our lives. Cycling will always be a part of my life," he stated. "But I am not going to risk my life racing. It is not worth risking another big hit to my head. It is time to move on.
"My goal as of now is to do the Ironman next year. Road racing might be out but you never know, you might see me in a few mountain bike races next season."
For more details of his foundation or to donate, go to www.raisinhope.org.