In May 2003, J.R. Martinez was sitting in a room at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Around him were his mother, Maria Zavala, his facial therapist and a nurse. Less than one year after enlisting in the U.S. Army, the 19-year-old former high school football star was in an unfamiliar situation: He was re-learning how to walk.

Nine and a half years later, Martinez is learning how to run -- a marathon. Never a distance runner before this year, Martinez has partnered with Timex and the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Youth Programs for a noble cause. Martinez will start Sunday's ING New York City Marathon dead last, and for every runner he passes, Timex will donate $1 to the NYRR's Youth Programs.

It's been said that good guys finish last. At the ING New York City Marathon, that's where they start.

"It just shows you how crazy life can be,” Martinez told ThePostGame of his journey during the past decade, "and the things that you can accomplish and how far you can actually go if you set your mind to it."

On April 5, 2003, Martinez was driving a Humvee in Iraq when the vehicle's front left tire hit a landmine. While other soldiers were thrown from the Humvee, Martinez was trapped inside. Within moments Martinez was in unbearable pain; smoke was filling the truck and Martinez's body had become severely burned.

By the time Martinez was rescued, more than 40 percent of his body had suffered third-degree burns. Army doctors weren't sure if Martinez would survive the attacks, and he was kept in a coma for several weeks as he recovered.

Martinez spent two arduous years in the hospital, undergoing more than 30 surgeries and relearning basic skills, like walking. When he was released, he weighed 240 pounds, which he knew was too much for his 5-foot-9 frame. He had to cut back on some of his favorite Texas cooking ("It's good, but it's not good for you," he jokes) and start working out regularly.

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Now, Martinez runs five days a week and says he feels the benefits of his hard work every day.

"Not only do I feel better physically, I'm more confident," Martinez said. "It's amazing when you're physically active and you take of yourself what it really does for you."

There's also some external motivation for Martinez this weekend, as every runner he passes means another dollar for the NYRR’s Youth Programs. Last year, softball star Jennie Finch raised $30,000, and Martinez says his goal is to top that mark.

"Everybody is a dollar sign for me in that damn race," Martinez said as he lets out a chuckle. "That's the way I'm looking at you, you are a dollar sign, I don't care what your bib number is, you are a freaking dollar sign to me and I am J.R. Martinez and I'm going to pass you."

Martinez's training is made more difficult by the fact that he has traveled constantly during the past year, taking speaking engagements across the country. After gettng out of the hospital, Martinez landed a role in All My Children in 2008, and then catapulted to a new level of fame after winning Season 13 of Dancing With The Stars in 2011.

Martinez has quickly become one of the foremost voices for veterans across the country, and that's a distinction he does not take lightly.

"For me, it's so cool to have that opportunity to be able to ... represent, to be one of the examples of perseverance," Martinez said. "To be proof that the mind and the body can overcome a lot of things and get through a lot of things."

As any runner knows, training on the road can be extremely difficult. Not only does all that flying take a toll on the legs, it is much harder to track distance in unfamiliar settings. To help alleviate the stress on his feet, Martinez wears compression socks whenever he flies.

And because he is often forced to run in different cities, Martinez is using a special watch -- the Timex GPS Run Trainer -- to track pace, distance and heart rate. Martinez says the watch has helped immensely, eliminating the hassle of using a phone or physically mapping out a route. And for a man as busy as Martinez, the fewer worries he has, the better.

In addition to the marathon Sunday, Martinez recently released a book, Full of Heart and is also a new father. His daughter, Lauryn Anabelle, was born in May.

With all that's he's juggling -- training for a marathon, writing a book, raising a daughter -- Martinez has had some long nights and rough days duringthe past year. But he wouldn't have it any other way.

"As crazy and hectic as it's been, I'm blessed," Martinez said. "Because, you know, in a bad economy right now, a lot of people aren't working. And to have the opportunity to be doing one thing, but then to have the opportunity to do three things, I'm not complaining at all, man."

-- Email Robbie Levin at

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The bat is back.

Fryer, which is the name San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence bestowed upon the lumber which he shattered while smacking his three-run double against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS, was accidentally sold on Monday night to San Francisco season-ticket holders Rick and Terri Alagna. After the game, Rick entered and won a lottery for the chance to purchase the broken bat for $400. It was a no-brainer.

But after realizing the historical significance of the bat, the Alagnas called their season-ticket rep on Tuesday and arranged to bring the bat back for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday. In return, the organization presented the family with a different Hunter Pence autographed bat as well as a pair of seats in a luxury box. And while Pence was a little busy on Wednesday, gearing up for the World Series and all, the organization promised the Alagnas that they would get to meet him at some point.

"My son, J.D., said, 'You know, Dad, you really should give that bat back to Hunter Pence,'" Rick Alagna told CSN Bay Area. "I thought, 'Hey, I’m the dad. I’ve got to do what’s right.'"

Upon hearing the news that Fryer was coming home, Pence needed only two words to describe his excitement.

"That’s awesome."

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Drivers are generally not pleasantly surprised when they pull up to toll booths. Especially during their morning commute.

But that was the case for drivers in the greater Atlanta area on Wednesday morning, as the Atlanta Hawks picked up the tab for all drivers at northbound and southbound tolls on GA 400.

The toll is only 50 cents, but hey, it's better than nothing.

In addition to paying tolls for two hours, the team handed out schedules, air fresheners and gift cards.

"Our hometown fans were introduced to a team with a lot of new faces this preseason, and now the Atlanta Hawks are ready to get the 2012-13 season underway," said team president Bob Williams.. "As an expression of our gratitude to the Metro Atlanta area and our fans for their support, we will pay all tolls during the morning commute."

It has been somewhat of a tumultuous offseason for the Hawks, with the team trading its biggest star (Joe Johnson) along with a former first-round draft pick (Marvin Williams). The recently hired president of basketball operations Danny Ferry added Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and John Jenkins.

(H/T to Darren Rovell)

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For as big an impact as he made on the field for the San Francisco 49ers, Steve Young has a post-NFL legacy that is shaping up to be just as significant.

The Hall of Famer and Super Bowl XXIX MVP is a noted philanthropist who has worked with various charities throughout his career. He even created his own organization, the Forever Young Foundation, and has provided numerous opportunities to countless children across the glove for nearly two decades.

Young's latest initiative is dedicated to 17-year-old Sophie Barton, a family friend who passed away unexpectedly on a hike with her mother in Salt Lake City. Sophie was a musician who often sang in hospitals, and Young and his foundation are looking to honor her by introducing music therapy to a Bay Area hospital.

"You've got children who can't even speak, yet in music therapy, they can sing," said Young's wife, Barb. "Children that can't move, then in music therapy, they're able to dance, or bang on a drum."

The first Sophie's Place is under construction in the Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, and Steve and Barb are working with the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., to establish a similar music therapy program.

Young funded the creation of the Forever Young Zone playroom at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital several years ago, but there's not enough space for Sophie's Place, so Young is hoping there will be room in the hospital's expansion.

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The story of a chance encounter at the airport between the Navy lacrosse team and a group of World War II veterans is making the rounds on the Internet thanks to a goose bump-inducing photo.

Navy Athletics posted this photo on its Facebook page Sunday morning of the school's lacrosse team saluting a group of veterans at Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI). The Navy players were traveling back to Annapolis after scrimmaging Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday.

The team bumped into the veterans at BWI, leading to an unforgettable encounter for both groups of men and a magnificent photo that captured the moment.

Navy Athletics posted the following note on its Facebook page:

The Navy men's lacrosse team flew back to BWI airport today after playing Notre Dame in a fall lacrosse game on Saturday. While at BWI, the team encountered 67 World War II veterans. After having the opportunity to shake their hand and thank them for their service, the team lined up and saluted them as their buses passed by. It put the entire trip in perspective.

It's been a whirlwind week in Indianapolis. Coming off the Colts' bye-week, as the team was preparing for the Green Bay Packers, coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia and has been hospitalized at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

The Colts had a football game to play Sunday, but the team made sure that Pagano was not far away. Indianapolis hung a large banner near the endzone reading "#CHUCKSTRONG" while several players made personal tributes to their ill coach.

Perhaps the most touching moment came after the Colts' improbable victory ove the Packers. Owner Jim Irsay along with general manager Ryan Grigson drove to the hospital and personally gave the game ball to Pagano. Irsay spoke with the Indianapolis Star afterwards, and he said Sunday might have been the most memorable day for him in his four decades in football.

"In my 40 years in this business, I've never been prouder of a team and how they battled back," Irsay told the Star. "I've been in a lot of winning locker rooms, Super Bowl locker rooms, but I've never had an experience like this. People talk about money, what the team is worth, those kinds of things, but this was priceless. Absolutely priceless."

For a man who has won a Super Bowl, worked with one of the best quarterbacks ever and overseen the massive turnaround of his entire organization, Sunday's emotional win and visit with Pagano was something else.

"You know, you see things in the movie, but oftentimes, life isn't as beautiful as they make it out to be," Irsay said. "But this went way past that. This was the stuff of movies. This was beautiful."

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It has been a special season in Baltimore.

Not only did the Orioles snap their 14-year streak of losing seasons, they finished 12 games over .500 and made the playoffs in one of the league's most competitive divisions.

And with the Orioles winning, the fans are coming back to Camden Yards. A total of 2,102,240 fans attended games in Baltimore this year, the Orioles' highest attendance since 2007 and a 19.8 percent increase from last year.

To thank their fans, the Orioles lip-synced The Wanted's hit "Glad You Came" and played the video for their fans during a recent home game.

It's a classy move by an organization that knows how much it means to its fans.

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Justin Verlander knowns what it means to accomplish an extremely rare feat in baseball. Last year, the Detroit Tigers' ace won the AL MVP award, the first for a starting pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986.

So when teammate Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown this week, Verlander wanted to celebrate in style. Verlander purchased a watch for Cabrera and had it engraved with "Congratulations Miguel Cabrera, 2012 AL Triple Crown" on the back.

Verlander presented Cabrera with the watch during a quiet moment in the clubhouse after Detroit's win over Kansas City on Wednesday.

"It feels great," Verlander said of the feeling of presenting an award rather than receiving one. "At Christmastime, some people like to give gifts more than they like to get them. Just to see him smile and be really appreciative. ... We've been playing together for years now, and it's kind of a special moment between two guys who are friends and teammates."

Verlander won pitching's triple crown last year when he led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.

(H/T to Larry Brown Sports)

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JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon had a rough summer to say the least. Dimon had to deal with the fallout from the London Whale trading loss, a $6 billion hit JPMorgan first announced in May 2012.

In a fascinating profile of Dimon in November's issue of Vanity Fair, Dimon reveals that after explaining his company's huge loss to analysts and the media on July 13, he got a call from Tom Brady. The New England quarterback was calling to console Dimon after one of the worst days of his life.

From Vanity Fair:

In first announcing the trading losses, at a hastily convened conference call for analysts and the media on May 10, Dimon knew he would get skewered. “It plays right into the hands of a bunch of pundits out there,” he said at the time. “But that’s life…. We have egg on our face. We deserve any criticism we get.” After spending much of July 13 again explaining the trading loss to the media and to research analysts -- including making the stunning admission that the traders in London may have intentionally mismarked the trades to make them look less egregious, a potential illegality that the Justice Department is still investigating -- the exhausted Dimon got an unexpected call from Tom Brady, the star quarterback of the New England Patriots. (Jimmy Lee, a legendary sports fan, had arranged for it.) Brady reminded Dimon that even Super Bowl champs have bad days and told him “to hang in there.” “I was surprised he even knew who I was, to tell you the truth,” Dimon says.

This isn't the only instance that Brady has offered support to a high-profile man who had suffered a serious setback. In the lead-up to this weekend's showdown between Brady and Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos quarterback revealed that Brady reached out to him as he recovered from neck surgery last year and asked if there was anything he could do to help.

(H/T to Deadspin)

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Every December, Bob and Trish Evans sit down to evaluate their goals and look ahead to the upcoming year. The husband-and-wife duo from northern Wisconsin, who have become synonymous with the act of juggling while jogging (known as "joggling"), have a lot to review. Both Bob and Trish have held Guinness world-record times for running 5K races while joggling, and they’ve won races in 12 states in the past year.

But that wasn’t enough for Bob and Trish, who are part brilliant innovators and part phenomenal athletes. When Bob and Trish sat down to complete their customary year-in-review session in December 2011, they wanted a new challenge. And so the duo cooked up an idea that most people would call crazy, if not impossible.

They wanted to juggle their way through an entire triathlon. That’s right, a triathlon.

In truth, an acquaintance in Florida, Joe Salter, was also training for a juggling triathlon, and he showed Bob and Trish how to "swuggle," or juggle while swimming. As you might imagine, swuggling is extremely difficult, as it requires the athlete to lie on her back in the water, kick her feet and toss the balls in front of her head. Bob and Trish started doing two days of pool training a week in September. At first, they couldn’t get ten feet in the pool without dropping a ball.

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