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For John Nichols, the road to recovery was a marathon

Updated: July 16, 2013 1:25AM

Twenty years ago, John Nichols became a quadriplegic when he broke his neck while waterskiing in Wisconsin. He wiped out in shallow water and hit his head on the lake floor.

His road to recovery was long, and after years of struggling to regain control of his body, it led him to a 26.2 mile trek through the city and a medal around his once-broken neck to prove he completed the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Nichols, 52, has run every Chicago Marathon since, four total, and last year raised the most money out of any single runner participating in the race: more than $43,000. It all went to the Spinal Cord injury Association of Illinois.

On Monday Nichols received the Richard M. Daley and Maggie Daley Award, which goes to the top charity fundraiser.

The punchline here is, “Sometimes in life, we get to choose the cause, but most of the time, the cause chooses you,” Nichols said at the award ceremony in Millennium Park.

Nichols, who lives in Lincoln Park and owns a company that provides disability insurance, has been shaving minutes off his marathon time each year: 6:09, 5:50, 4:55 and 4:32.

“Crossing the finish line that first time, there’s nothing like it,” said Nichols, who still does not have complete control of his right hand and right leg.

His charity fundraising from all four marathons exceeds $100,000.

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