High schooler's heroic act helps marathon runner cross the finish line

Chandler Self’s legs gave out about 20 meters from the finish line of her latest race, but with the help of another athlete, she still crossed it — and won.

Throughout the BMW Dallas Marathon on Saturday, Self trailed behind competitor Kaitlin Keen. During the last leg of the race, Self, who’s from Dallas but now works as a psychiatrist in New York City, surged ahead a final time to outpace Keen for the win. Then, a runner’s worst fear happened.

“I saw the finish, I knew I was gonna win,” Self tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I couldn’t wait to get there; I was on Cloud 9 — and then all of a sudden, my legs gave out from underneath me. I tried to will my legs to go, but just couldn’t.”

Self had fallen and gotten up a few times when high school runner Ariana Luterman ran over to help her. The Greenhill Academy student and triathlete had been running alongside Self for two miles in a separate race when she saw Self fall.

“I thought she had tripped. She went down again and again. The last time she went down, she was about 20 meters from the finish line,” Luterman, 17, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I was worried she wasn’t going to make it to the end.”

After her last fall, Luterman left the relay in which she was an anchor, and picked Self up and supported her all the way to the finish line. Luterman even made sure Self crossed first.

Worried about breaking the rules, which suggest that runners may not have help during a race, Self had tried to motion for Luterman to stop, but Luterman figured it was OK, since she was a fellow runner. Plus, she just couldn’t bear to see Self struggling.

“There’s only so much clapping and cheering you can do,” she says.

Still, Self not only crossed the finish line, but broke a record, too. She became the first woman to cross the 2017 BMW Dallas Marathon finish line with an unofficial time of 2:53:58.

Dallas Marathon director Marcus Grunewald determined that with her lead, Self would have won on her own, and made the win official. Keen, whom Self calls a “class act,” came in second, but also agreed that her opponent would have won despite the help.

Medics carted Self off before she and Luterman could exchange words, but she said she is thankful to Luterman for going out of her way for her. Luterman, who not only runs in real life but also runs her own nonprofit for homeless children, called Team Ariana, said any of her teammates would have done what she did.

Ariana Luterman’s senior portrait. (Photo by Sharon Ellman)
Ariana Luterman’s senior portrait. (Photo by Sharon Ellman)

“I’m really not anything special,” she says. “Any other of the members on the relay team, I know for a fact they would have done the same thing.”

Self says her legs had never given out before and she’s not really sure what happened, but she’s going to investigate. In the meantime, she’s reveling in her win, her first marathon win at that, which she called a “dream come true.”

“My dad never cries, and he had tears in his eyes,” she says.

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