#BeYourOwnIcon: Peter Kesaris

Peter Kesaris on AmericanSunglass.com

Running a half marathon isn’t notable, unless you’re Peter Kesaris. That’s because the New Yorker almost died six years ago after being hit by a car while crossing the street one October evening when he was a freshman at Elon University in North Carolina.

But Kesaris was given a second chance and today he’s making the most of it. Earlier this month, he completed the Brooklyn Rock n’ Roll Half, proof of the strides he has made since nearly losing his life at the age of 18.

After finishing the race, Kesaris celebrated by sharing it to his Instagram and later to his LinkedIn profile. And that’s when his story began to reach thousands of people, inspired not only that he completed a 13-miler, but the fact that he even got there.

American Sunglass caught up with Kesaris to talk about his incredible journey. It’s a journey that started on October 20, 2010, a foggy, rainy night in Elon, North Carolina. At approximately 10 pm, he crossed the street when a driver hit him and he was flown nearly 20 feet into the air. “Apparently, when she got out of her car, I said I was completely fine and got up and tried to walk,” Kesaris said.

His memories of that night and the weeks before and after are vague. What he does know is this: he suffered a broken knee, torn ACL and MCL as well as injuries to his ribs and cheek bone. He was admitted to a local emergency room before being transferred to Duke University Hospital. There, he was put into a drug-induced coma to reduce swelling in his brain.

He spent the next six months in a wheelchair and doctors were unsure if he would ever be able to walk normally again.

“The scariest part was the brain injury and how well I’d recover from that,” he said.

Over the course of the next year, he underwent physical therapy taking part in low-impact exercises like swimming. “That summer [following the accident] I really got into fitness,” he told us. “A year later I was able to do most anything though running was rough on my legs. It still is.”

On the surface, Kesaris looks like most any normal 24-year-old though he acknowledges there are residual effects. He has a screw in his left knee. There is a section of his ribs where he still feels pain. And he has short-term memory issues that he attributes to the accident.

A Dream Is Born

The idea to run a half marathon came about roughly a year after his accident. At his gym, one of the instructors was training to run a marathon in November 2011. “I was thinking that was awesome and I’m going to do that one day,” he said.

That day occurred on October 8 of this year. In between that time, Kesaris graduated from Elon with a bachelor’s degree in political science before landing a job in New York City where he works as an architectural design consultant.

While in New York, Kesaris became involved in CrossFit. It is there that he built up the confidence to move forward with his dreams of running a half marathon. “I thought if I’m able to do this and get through these classes and workouts I should be able to get through a half marathon,” he said.

And that he did, finishing the Brooklyn half marathon in a little over 2 hours and 20 minutes. “I wasn’t the fastest in the bunch, but I didn’t walk and that was kind of my goal,” he said.

In the process, Kesaris has shown the indomitability of the human spirit, serving as an inspiration to others who may be coping with similar circumstances. “When I got back home, I remember thinking, ‘Wow. Six years ago the doctors came in and told me they didn’t know if I’d remember basic things or how my knee would recover,’” he said. “It’s kind of incredible  I ran a half marathon.”

As to what he has learned from the entire ordeal, Kesaris told us, “in one aspect it made me realize how short life can be and how everything in life is kind of uncertain.” It also drew him closer to his family and friends, all of whom he had to rely on while in the hospital and therapy.  

Despite all he has achieved, Kesaris is striving for more. He plans on running another half marathon in Savannah, Georgia, next March. And one day, he hopes to run a full marathon.

Set Your Own Goals

At American Sunglass, we believe people like Peter Ketsaris should be celebrated. And we should hold them up as examples for what each one of us can achieve when we set our minds to it.

So that’s why we urge those who have always wanted to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon to start training now. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. But eventually, it will happen.

And if you’re looking for sunglasses while out on your own journey, check out our line of runner’s sunglasses. Both Oakley (click here) and Native (click here) are two brands popular among runners, athletes and those who need a rugged, but stylish brand that can withstand the elements.

For more inspiration, make sure to follow Peter Kesaris on Instagram at pakjan6.

Words of an Icon: “I would say getting hit by a car was probably the lowest point of my life… It definitely made me realize that whenever you face any challenges, whether getting hit by a car or whatever, if you use what you learned to fight to get back to normal and apply that to everyday life, whether in your career or a relationship, it is the best way to get through tough times.” – Peter Kesaris