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Joplin Memorial Half Pacer Inspires Others to Finish Strong - KOAM TV 7

Joplin Memorial Half Pacer Inspires Others to Finish Strong

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI - Bobby Ballard nearly escaped death four years ago, a month before the tornado struck, he was out on a run with his beginners running class when he suffered a massive heart attack.

"I had a nurse that was running with me that gave me CPR and then they rushed me to the hospital and several days after that I had triple bypass and three stints were put in,” says 55-year-old Ballard.

But he didn't let the setback stop him, just five weeks after he was determined to walk the memorial race.

And since the incident has run more than seventy races. He has become a running trainer at the YMCA and pacer for the Joplin Memorial Half teaching others to be healthy.

Friend Stacey Middleton followed along the route with him from the beginning. It was an emotional start for both, running through banners with the names of the 161 people who died.

Middleton says "I loved running through the banners. I loved running through the tornado zone. Part of my heart died when the tornado came through. Even though I didn't lose anybody personally, I lost part of my town."

Ballard says it's all about how you finish. Just like Joplin has rebuilt after the tornado he keeps running despite his heart problems to inspire others.

"It just amazes me, he's a big believer in second chances and he was given a second chance and he pays it forward to everybody else out there,” says his running student Lynette Lee.

Lee only took up running a year ago, and says Ballard's been with her all the way.

“Bobby is a great pacer, he never gives up on you. He's the biggest encourager out there. And he said we'd do it in under three, and 2:59."

Checking off his twelfth half marathon off the list, a feat four years ago he never thought possible, he now leads the way for others.

“I like to think that's why i was actually brought back and saved from this to help to inspire other people,” says Ballard.

A total of 2829 people ran in the Joplin Memorial Half, kids run, and 5K. Five hundred ran in last night's “Walk of Silence.”

With around 400 volunteers helping out on the sidelines, this is the biggest turn out for the event.
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