The truck stopped Mark Hager cold, snapping his bones and puncturing his lungs as it rolled over him.
Like that, a training run turned into a disaster, one that nearly killed someone trying to stay in shape and prepare for a half-marathon.
The recovery was long and grueling. But Hager says reading about another athlete who ran again after being hit by a car inspired him to get through the pain.
That's why, two years after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver as he crossed the intersection of West Braker Lane and Ptarmigan Drive, Hager, 47, has launched a Web site called IWillAgain.com, where athletes overcoming accidents, injuries or illness can share their stories, advice, goals and moral support.
It's free, and athletes — or anyone who wants to offer encouragement — can join.
"I'd like it to be a resource for athletes trying to overcome whatever they're going through," Hager says.
Hager, chief financial officer of Campus Advantage, a student housing company, was hit Jan. 10, 2008. He had headed out along Braker Lane in the fading light, planning to squeeze in an hourlong run while he waited for his son to finish basketball practice . Hager doesn't remember what happened next. Witnesses tell him the dark-colored truck that hit him didn't stop, and the driver was never found.
"I had bruises that looked like tread marks diagonally across my chest," Hager says.
He also had a broken neck, back, shoulder blade and pelvis, 20 broken ribs and a punctured lung. He was resuscitated twice and needed 11 units of blood that first night.
He remained hospitalized for six weeks, and underwent back and pelvis surgeries. When he finally went home six weeks later, he used a wheelchair. Gradually, though, he recuperated. He traded the wheelchair for a walker, then crutches and finally a cane.
Late in March, less than three months after he was hit, he returned to work. And that July 4, he ran for the first time.
"You want to talk about slow," he says. "I ran one mile and heard voices. I turned around and a couple in their 70s was behind me walking a dog — and they were catching me."
Undaunted, he set a goal of running a 5K by September with his father's running club in Oklahoma.
"My gait was weird. It was painful. My hips were out of whack," he says.
He finished that 5K. But the race hurt so much that he quit running again. "I found myself on the couch every night after work, thinking about how much I hurt," he says.
After a few months, two things happened within a two-day span. A friend from Abilene called and suggested they do a race together. Then he saw an article in Runners World magazine about a New York City firefighter who had been hit by a bus while cycling and ran a marathon two years later.
"His injuries were like my injuries on steroids," Hager says. "It inspired me — I thought, 'You need to quit your whining and get off the couch and back to work.'"
He and his friend decided to run the Statesman Capitol 10,000 in 2009. He started running that week, and set the even loftier goal of running the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon a few months after the Capitol 10K.
He moved about as fast as sap down a tree trunk. His gait was awkward because his left leg was now shorter than his right one and he had pins and screws in his back and pelvis. He figured he should get a T-shirt that said "I may be slow, but were you run over by a truck?"
Still, Hager finished the Cap10K and the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon in 2009. He even ran the Rock 'n Roll San Antonio Marathon in 5 hours and 12 minutes.
His doctors told him to do whatever he felt well enough to do. He keeps running because he can.
"It feels like there's something in my back moving up and down," he says. "It feels like I've pulled a back muscle all the time. My hips and pelvis hurt and burn, and my left leg feels like I'm running on a stump."
"But part of me says 'If not this, then what?' Unless you're willing to just throw in the towel over anything physical, you've got to do what you're able to do. The consequences of doing nothing are far, far worse than doing something that hurts right now."
He realized how much it had helped him to read someone else's story of recovery and remembered how much he wished he'd been able to talk to other people who had gone through similar experiences.
"If the difference between me finishing a marathon and doing nothing at all is hearing a story, I had to do something," he says.
The IWillAgain community went live in November. So far, a handful of athletes have joined and shared their stories.
Among them is Stephan Lips, 41, an Austin software engineer and triathlete, who was riding his bike in February 2007 when he was hit by a motorcycle that ran a red light at 60 mph. It trashed his knee and broke his leg in several places. He underwent surgery, and faced months of rehabilitation before he started swimming, biking and running again.
"If you're used to living in an able body and all the sudden that's taken away, you're not even able to hold your kids, that stinks," Lips says. "When I was down I didn't have anybody to talk to, to share that common experience with."
Lips is back to competing. He did two Half Ironman triathlons within a year of his accident, and is a member of the U.S. National Triathlon Team. He registered on IWillAgain in hopes of helping others who face long recoveries.
"If you know somebody else who made it successfully through it, that helps you find strength," Lips says. "You lose your hope and what else is there?"