Kieran Tuntivate could feel his skin peeling away. His foot was slipping on the track. He was in considerable pain as he grinded through the last lap.
The Harvard University senior track star lost his left shoe early in a 3K race last weekend, but he continued to not only finish, but also ultimately win the event at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.
“When the shoe came off, I was really flustered for a lap or two,” Tuntivate told the Harvard Crimson. “I knew I wouldn’t run well if I let it get to my head. I took a few deep breaths and just settled in and tried to keep with the pace.”
Tuntivate ran the last 12 laps with just the one shoe, yet he still finished less than a second ahead of the next two runners and earned 10 points for the Crimson. When he completed the race, Tuntivate came off the track bleeding profusely with sizable chunks of his foot completely removed.
Trainer Nicolas Benitez carried Tuntivate off, and Harvard shared a video that clearly shows how much agony he’s in even after the race is over. The team’s track and field Twitter account added the Titanic music in the background to further dramatize an already-mesmerizing moment.
— Harvard T&F | XC (@HarvardTrack_XC) March 1, 2019
The victory was exhilarating, but it came at a cost.
“I felt the skin start to peel away, and then it clumped up underneath my foot, and it felt like running on a pebble,” Tuntivate told the Washington Post. “The final lap was probably the hardest. It was a tough sprint to the finish, and the curves on the indoor track are so tight, I felt my foot slipping. I really zoned out pretty hard during that middle section between my shoe coming off and when it started to get painful.”
Afterward, Tuntivate posted two photos to Instagram – one much more gory than the other. The first was a shot of him running with just one shoe, and the second was an aesthetically displeasing shot of his left foot, which has certainly seen better days.
“Things don’t always go to plan,” he wrote, followed by some hashtags, including #dontswipeifyoureeating and #swipeforasurprise.
Tuntivate, who told reporters this has never happened to him before, was able to quickly recover from the mishap and win the 5K the next day wearing trainers. He earned Male Track Athlete of the Meet honors and managed to piece together a remarkable performance despite an unexpected hiccup.
Even after such a rollercoaster, Tuntivate appeared have a relatively positive outlook on the Championships. He deflected any credit and praised those around him for making this all possible.
“It was a good weekend,” he told Runner’s World. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They paced me in the 3K, and in the 5K, they helped me set a pace, because if we were changing paces, that would have hurt my foot.”