One year ago, on race day, Tyler Moon’s heart stopped.
Which didn’t stop Tyler Moon.
Saturday morning, he laced up his running shoes and set out to run his first marathon with his wife, Amy, by his side.
A 26.2-mile run is amazing. More amazing is the fact that Moon, 26, is still with us, still putting one foot in front of the other.
“Your world gets twisted and shaken upside-down,” he said. “Just keep going. It’s all going to be OK.”
Last October, an irregular heartbeat sent the healthy athlete into cardiac arrest near the 8-mile marker of a 10-mile race. Moon collapsed in the middle of Summit Avenue in St. Paul, wearing his race bib printed with an expression of his faith: “Jesus Saves.”
The middle of the street, in the middle of the biggest race day in Minnesota, turned out to be the best place to have the worst day of his life.
As Moon fell, other runners and spectators rushed to save him. Off-duty doctors, nurses, EMTs and firefighters dropped out of the race or sprinted over from the sidelines to help the man in the Jesus Saves bib. They worked in shifts to help him, clearing an airway, performing chest compressions, keeping the blood pumping through his uncooperative heart until the ambulance arrived.
One of his saviors, Moon later learned, was a nurse anesthetist and fellow runner named Jesus “Jesse” Bueno.
By November, doctors had implanted the defibrillator that now protects his heart. Moon started making plans — first, finish the last 2 miles of that 10-miler, then start training for a marathon — while he was still inching around the hospital with a walker.
Marathon Day looks different this year. The whole world feels twisted and shaken upside-down.
No crowds of spectators, no waves of runners on Summit Avenue. The race organizers at Twin Cities in Motion decided early in the pandemic to make this a virtual marathon. Runners had the entire month of October to run their own races, at their own paces.
Twin Cities in Motion did what it could to bottle some of the race-day magic. They set up a finish line outside their offices for runners who wanted the satisfaction of reenacting their finishing sprint. They mailed out cheer kits so runners could have at least a few encouraging signs and cowbells along their route.
They put together a soundtrack: the starting air horn; cowbells; cheering crowds; feet pounding on asphalt, and the oompah of a sousaphone, like the one retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page plays for the runners near Kenwood Park every year.
“The spirit of the marathon is still the same,” said Twin Cities in Motion Executive Director Virginia Brophy Achman, who planned to turn out to cheer the Moons as they set out on their looping 26.2-mile course around Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet.
They might not have had 200,000 spectators cheering them on like a normal marathon weekend, but they had each other — Tyler running, Amy pacing him on roller blades. And Tyler Moon had a new race bib: Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
This has been a year of pandemic, injustice, unrest, bitter politics and murder hornets. And every day of it has been a gift.
This is the year Tyler and Amy Moon got married. This is the year they bought their first house. This is their marathon year.
“Life never stops, life never slows down,” said Amy Moon. “I think the biggest [lesson] for us was not letting this event stop us from living the life that God has called us to.”
The story of the runner in the “Jesus Saves” bib, who was saved by good Samaritans including a man named Jesus, made headlines around the world, spreading Tyler Moon’s message of faith and hope farther than he ever could have dreamed.
“As crazy as it sounds,” he said, “it’s been one of the biggest blessings in our lives.”