This Niagara officer is running the 2018 Boston Marathon nearly 3 years after he was shot on duty
'Running all the time was sort of my personal time where I could collect my thoughts and get some clarity'
It has been nearly three years since Const. Neal Ridley was shot in neck while on duty and almost died. So when he runs the Boston Marathon on Monday, he won't think about winning. He'll think about being alive.
The Niagara Regional Police Service officer calls it a bucket list experience — running the marathon with his twin brother, Vaughn, at age 42. But even more, it's a victorious turn in a hard-fought chapter involving rehabilitation, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and facing what he thought was certain death.
"I was literally knocked off my feet, on my hands and knees, thinking I'm going to die," he said. "And for all intents and purposes, I should have."
"Reenacting that shooting, you'll never have a resolution or an ending like I have been very fortunate to have."
Ridley was already an avid runner, and just two minutes shy of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, when he answered a call about a distraught male with a gun in Fenwick, Ont.
He was among four officers who entered an apartment building in October 2015. Ridley was in a narrow hallway, he said, when the man appeared with a gun. Ridley turned his head to yell "gun!" to his partner, and was shot. So was his partner, Const. Jacob Braun.
It was pitch black, and I felt a white light like the head of a pin. I thought, 'This is how I die.'- Const. Neal Ridley
The bullet ripped through Ridley's shoulder and neck. The velocity made him fly back and land on his hands and knees, he recalled. Kneeling there, he heard nothing. Just quiet.
"It was a silence you've never heard before," he said. "It was pitch black, and I felt a white light like the head of a pin. I thought, 'This is how I die.'"
Ridley struggled physically and mentally over the next few months. He couldn't run, he said. This led to weight gain and depression.
"Running all the time was sort of my personal time where I could collect my thoughts and get some clarity," he said. "Not having that because I was injured was difficult."
He started running again last year, and qualified for the famous race at the Erie Marathon in Erie, Pa., in September. This was the same race where he came minutes short of qualifying before he was shot.
"It was a vindication of myself that I was back physically," he said. "I could still set goals in my life and achieve them."
Ridley is back on the job, and considers himself "extremely blessed." He refers to his PTSD as "post traumatic stress distraction."
"The shooting, the anxiety, the depression … they can definitely become overwhelming in your life," he said.
"Running provides me an opportunity with my conscious mind to think about running footstep after footstep, and with my subconscious mind, think about where I'm at at this point in time."
With files from Radio-Canada's Frederic Lacelle