My 'Outside' Moment of the Year: Manteo Mitchell Breaks His Leg

Broken fibula? Oh, no big deal.

Manteo Mitchell (right, unbroken legs) at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships.     Photo: Erik van Leeuwen/Wikimedia Commons

We asked our fellow staffers for their favorite Outside moments of the year, and we want to hear yours, too. In the comments, tell us what moved you, what mattered to you, and what moment stood out most.

In a year when some of the most amazing feats required lots of planning (Felix Baumgartner jumping from a pod more than 24 miles above the surface of the earth) and millions of dollars in equipment and research (successfully landing the Curiosity rover on Mars' Gale Crater after a 350-million-mile journey) my pick for the best Outside moment goes to something far more simple. My pick goes to Manteo Mitchell, the American athlete who snapped his fibula at the London Olympics and just kept on running.

A few days before the August 9 semi-final of the men's 4x400-meter relay, Mitchell, a 25-year-old North Carolina native who was in London for his first Olympic Games, injured himself when he slipped on a set of stairs. Thinking little of it—really, a set of stairs?—he continued to train. But everything went horribly, painfully wrong halfway through his run. "As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break," he said. "I heard it. I even put out a little war cry, but the crowd was so loud you couldn't hear it."

And the crowd continued to roar because, despite the break, Mitchell pushed on—"I was doing my job," he said—and finished his 400 meters in just 46.1 seconds. After passing off the baton, he limped to the sidelines and watched the U.S. team tie for first with a record-breaking sub-three-minute time. (They would go on to win silver in the final.) Reminiscent of one of the greatest Olympic moments in history—Kerri Strug's picture-perfect vault on an injured ankle—Mitchell's 400 meters was a reminder of the human spirit's will to commit, endure, and accomplish, which, once you strip away all of the electronics, is really the same thing that put us on Mars.

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