When the doctors said he could be in a wheelchair, Todd Short refused to accept it.

Six days a week, Todd Short, a U.S. Army veteran, runs the trails near his home in Woodland Park, Colorado. High elevation, inclement weather, and rough terrain be damned, Short is out there logging 35 to 55 miles a week. Running through nature, greeted by deer, mountain lions, and other wildlife, he quietly prepares for the next trail race on his schedule—in this case, the Super Half Marathon, where Short’s hoping to break 1:30.

For a man whose doctors included the possibility of a wheelchair in his prognosis, to say Short’s PR goal is impressive would be a serious understatement. On the trails, he’s probably passing you, but on paper, he’s a disabled veteran.

Short’s service in the Army spanned six years, starting off as an 82nd Airborne Infantry Solider. As a paratrooper, he spent months at a time lugging an 80-plus-pound pack containing everything he’d need to survive the mission. At the time, he weighed about 180 pounds and had to carry some seriously heavy gear in his ruck: a 30-plus-pound parachute, a 12-pound reserve parachute, a 23-pound M-60 weapon, plus 200 to 300 rounds of ammo that weighed another 14 to 21 pounds. They used a T-10 parachute that’s entire premise is to get the troops on the ground as quickly and safely as possible before the enemy shoots them out of the sky. “My point,” said Short, “is that you come down hard… Jumping from eight-hundred feet while carrying that much weight is equivalent to jumping from a two-story building with no parachute.”

Short’s knee could go out at any time, and his back’s in such bad shape he could be in a wheelchair—if not now, then in the near future.

All that weight and impact took a toll. His service left him disabled, with neck, back, and knee  issues.Short’s injury list is extensive: loss of 30 to 40 percent of hearing in his left ear and tinnitus in both, nerve damage on the left side of his neck, a bone spur and arthritis in his left knee, and his lower back has degenerative disk disease, arthritis, and scoliosis. The damage was done mostly from carrying heavy rucksacks and jumping from planes, plus the pull of an M-60. The impact of jumping from a plane didn’t do his knees any favors either. He now sports extremely loose ligaments in both. Plus, he hyper-extended his left knee a few times while moving at night using night vision goggles. “They have no depth perception and identifying holes or low spots was impossible,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Todd Short

Per his doctors, Short’s knee could go out at any time, and his back’s in such bad shape he could be in a wheelchair—if not now, then in the near future.

Along with the laundry list of injuries, Short left the service with three Army Accommodation medals, an Army Achievement Medal, a Good Conduct medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. He was so excited to get out, he never claimed any of his issues or discussed his pain with the exit doctor. The injuries eventually caught up with him. “Each year that I was out, I noticed more and more issues that caused me to go seek guidance from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). They worked with me to get my medical issues service corrected,” said Short.

Considered too young for back surgery, Short’s doctors at the time took a generic route, using medication to keep him comfortable.

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Source: Laura Bauer/REI CO-OP Journals
Photo: Tim Bergsten/PikesPeakSports.us