For the first time in the history of the Twin Cities marathon, a stroke awareness team will be in the race -- and FOX 9 News spoke with a survivor who will lace up for the 10-mile jaunt.
Many people may not realize it, but injuries caused by blows to the head or neck can lead to a stroke. That's why Dave Odalen is getting ready to run -- to teach people that there are signs that, if recognized quickly, can save a life.
"That's why I took up running," he told FOX 9 News. "I've got a second chance and I'm going to make the most of it."
After 10 weeks of training, Odalen is ready to run his second race on the 10-mile course. Last year, he did it for himself; this year, he it's for a cause that is personally dear to him.
For Odalen, his journey began two years ago while he was picking up his son from baseball practice.
"Out of nowhere, a baseball came, struck me here on the side of the neck," he recalled. "I didn't think anything of it."
Just 36 hours later, he was in the hospital.
"The right side of my brain was without oxygen for 4 hours," Oladen explained. "I stroked in my sleep."
After the stroke, Odalen says the right side of his body was completely paralyzed and he was unable to speak -- all because of the baseball.
"The stroke was caused by a dissected carotid artery," he explained.
Many who suffer strokes like Odalen's never recover, which is why he feels fortunate to be able to walk, talk and run. That's why he's joining the inaugural FAST running team with the Minnesota Stroke Association.
"To be able to recover from a stroke like that and participate in a 10-mile is very inspiring," said Jarrett Klein, who put the team of 30 together to promote awareness.
FAST stands for facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and time -- as in time to call 911.
"Frankly, having this kind of education out there and understanding the signs of stroke can save lives," Klien said.
Oladen knows he is with his family today because his wife acted quickly. Now, he wants to run toward the goal of saving other lives and inspiring others in their recoveries.
"If you believe in yourself, you can do it," he said.
Oladen has not been cleared to run more than 10 miles yet, but he plans to run the full TC Marathon next year.
In all, the FAST team will include four stroke survivors as well as family members and others. For more information on how to donate to their cause, visit http://www.strokemn.org/runteam/.