"I will still run a marathon." Those were the words of Eitan Hermon, a keen runner who had just been hit by a roadside bomb when the tank he was in was attacked in 2006 during the Lebanon War, while on duty for the Golani Brigade.
For a year, doctors tried to save Hermon's right leg, but he was told he needed a below-the-knee amputation and his world was thrown upside down.
Over the past seven years, Hermon, 38, has worked his way back to fitness, with the help of Tikvot – a non-profit organisation that helps Israeli victims of terror rehabilitate through sport.
Born at the Kfar Blum kibbutz in northern Israel, Hermon started running aged 10 and soon joined the Galil Running group. His long journey back to the track gathered momentum when he was fitted with a prosthetic leg and after months of rehabilitation and physiotherapy, he made a miraculous return, training for national and international competitions.
In 2010, Hermon became the first Israeli to complete a marathon on one leg when, with the help of a running blade, he crossed the line in the Tiberias race in 3:46. He has gone on to run seven marathons and holds the second fastest time (3:02:12) of any amputee. And he is not finished yet … his goal is to break the world record, as well as compete at the 2014 London Marathon and represent Israel in the 26.2-mile race at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Hermon was in London this week to take part in the 10km race at the Maccabi GB Fun Run, as well as testing out his new running blade, which is made of carbon fibre and designed by Jamie Gillespie, at the Pace Rehabilitation Centre in Chesham.
He is now training with Hayley Gimm, who has worked with GB star Paralympic gold medallist Jamie Peacock. He covers 100,000km a week over four training runs, as well as two days cycling and in the gym.
"Without running my life wouldn’t be the same,” Hermon said. “It’s what I want to do, but it’s a real challenge as I still feel some pain. But my over-riding feeling is one of a great sense of achievement.
"On my new leg, I'm able to distribute my weight more evenly on both legs. The new blade costs around £10,000 and without Tikvot I wouldn’t have the running blade or access to training, vitamins, minerals and funding to compete overseas.
"It's been a long journey, but I’m here because of their help and it’s great to be a winner again."
And while Noam Gershony, the London 2012 Wheelchair Tennis gold medallist, who is another graduate of Tikvot, contemplates his future in competitive sports, Hermon said: “I’m just thinking about Rio at the moment. It's vital the 2015 World Championships in Doha are a success. If that goes well it will open the way for Rio."
Hermon also gives lectures on motivation for people to succeed in life. "If you can dream it, you can do it," he says enthusiastically.
And if I can do it, anyone can and the more people in London who can help Tikvot, the more chance there is of Israel producing top-level athletes."