Running on his walking leg had been clunky and awkward.
On the running leg?
“It felt just much smoother and easier,” he said.
It felt great in so many ways.
“At this point now, there's not a whole lot I can't do,” Ahearn said. “I just have to do a lot of it a little bit differently.”
Running was one of the last activities that Ahearn wanted to do but hadn't been able to do since his accident. These last couple weeks, he has been working to build endurance. After several months away, that has been tough, but earlier this week, he ran the 400 meters in 1 minute, 57 seconds.
“I finally got a decent time,” he said.
Ahearn went to coach Scott Monnard.
“Are you guys looking for anything that I need to be hitting in order to run a meet?” he asked the coach.
Monnard said, “It's completely up to you. Whenever you feel ready.”
Ahearn was ready.
Friday, he showed it. He ran with a bit of a hitch in his gait, he didn't push himself too hard, but he shattered his best time since his return, finishing in 1 minute, 32 seconds.
“It was total adrenaline pretty much,” Ahearn said. “I didn't want to trip or anything like that, but adrenaline had me going there.
“The thrill from it was more than I was expecting. I was really excited to get out there.”
And it seemed the entire track and field community was excited for him. Teammates cheered him at the start, several running along the infield beside him and yelling encouragement.
Then, the public address announcer let everyone in the stadium know that Ahearn was on the track, running for the first time since his accident. Fans in the stands crowded toward the front railing while every athlete, it seemed, congregated along the infield.
They were three or more deep as Ahearn came down the home stretch and crossed the finish line.
It was more than stirring.
It was fitting.
“That's what helped me get through all this ... ” Ahearn said, “the support from everyone around me.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.