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Real Life Hero

Matthew Bledsoe.

Matthew Bledsoe.

By: Christine Fanning

Name: Matt Bledsoe
Age: 26
Hometown: Bartlett, Tennessee
Event: 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Matt Bledsoe, 26, gives "hero" a new meaning. As a soldier in the Army Reserves, he has courageously served for seven years, one of those years spent in Iraq.

Adding to his long list of heroic activities, Bledsoe ran the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon for Team Reeve in honor of his older sister, Christy Earheart.

More than a marathon
Earheart is now living with paralysis after a car accident that crushed her spinal column and severed part of her spinal cord. "She's my motivation in a lot of things, actually," Bledsoe explains about Earheart.

The accident happened two days after Bledsoe left his family before heading to Iraq for a year. "It was a rough time," Bledsoe says, "especially for my parents dealing with me going over seas and then the accident."

"It showed me how quickly things can change, how fragile everything is," he explains. "You definitely appreciate things more afterwards." Although the accident was a rough time for Bledsoe and his family, he says it brought them closer together.

Matt with his sister, Christy, and her family.

Matt with his sister, Christy, and her family.

Just go do it
"It's not my first marathon," Bledsoe says. "But each one has its challenge." Running has been a part of his life since his freshman year of high school. After eight marathons, Bledsoe was more than ready to conquer his ninth when he ran for Team Reeve in Chicago.

"There's no real secret other than just running," he explains. "It's just one of those things where you have to just go do it!"

In addition to training for the marathon and belonging in the Army Reserves, Bledsoe is also a student at the University of Memphis where he is obtaining a dual Bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering.

Impact leading to passion
Dedicating his time towards running the Chicago Marathon for Team Reeve is something that Bledsoe is passionate about. While in Iraq, he was exposed to numerous injuries, some leading to paralysis.

"Witnessing first hand how quickly and permanently someone's life can be altered has been a huge impact in my life," Bledsoe writes in his application for Team Reeve.

"You're shaped by what you do and what you go through," Bledsoe explains. "There's really no obstacle in life other than the one you make for yourself."

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders