(KTVA/CNN) — Runners call the Mount Marathon race in Seward, Alaska one of the most difficult in the world.
The best runners go 3,000 feet up and down in under 50 minutes.
It’s not an actual marathon of 26.2 miles, but it’s no walk in the park. The mountain nearly killed a man a couple of years ago, but he made his triumphant return on Friday.
It was July 4, 2012, when Matt Kenney slipped and fell more than 30 feet on the mountain. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and doctors told him he would never walk or talk.
It took months of rehabilitation in Colorado and months climbing with friends to get him to where he is today.
A tattoo reminds him to keep one foot in front of the other. “Four words: accomplish everything without fear,” Kenney said.
Two years after he nearly died, Kenney was back to finish what he started.
“The only part that will never go away is my drive for today and that’s part of me you just don’t turn off.”
Kenney wasn’t climbing for time — he was in the race for himself, his family and the running community that helped him recover.
His final time was two hours and 20 minutes, but that was a moot point compared to the reception he got at the finish line from his wife Gretchen.
“To come back to this today,” Kenney said, “I just can’t explain it.
“I was looking forward to it, going through the rocks where I had my accident two years ago. I was looking forward to the people at the bottom, screaming.”
Kenney will take one day off, then it’s back to training on Sunday. He plans to run the Alpine Adventure Run in Sitka, Alaska in two weeks.
And, of course, he’ll be back on Mount Marathon next year, and for many years to follow.