Less than 25 years after Scott Leason was blinded after taking on a gunman during a convenience store robbery, the San Diego man is taking on the Ironman.
Leason, 63, crossed the finish line to cheers and encouragement during an Ironman event earlier this month in Southern California.
"Of course, when you finish, it feels awesome because it's so long," Leason told InsideEdition.com. "At 63 years old, I think I did pretty decent."
He participated in the Ironman Oceanside triathlon as part of a relay team. Led by a guide, Leason did the 13 mile half-marathon and crossed the finish line after two other members of his team tackled the 1.2-mile swim and the 56-mile bicycle ride.
"The cool thing about being a visually impaired triathlete is that you have a guide and partner through the whole race," he explained. "You really become great friends, a great team."
Leason said that he was working as a clerk at Circle K convenience store in La Quinta at 37 years old when two armed robbers shot him in the head.
"I didn’t do anything to upset these guys; they just shot me anyway," he said. "They meant to kill me. I was shot point-blank with a 9 mm to the head."
While he survived the incident, doctors had to remove both of his eyes.
"I wasn’t angry at first, but as time went on, I realized this kind of life is very different," he explained. "I had children, so I wasn’t seeing my children grow up and they were guiding me around — I wasn’t guiding them or being a dad. That was very upsetting, and as time went on, I felt like life was passing me by."
Leason said he eventually hit rock bottom, and started abusing drugs and alcohol to deal with his anger.
He realized he had to turn his life around at age 50, focusing on exercise and sports.
"There’s a lot of emotional issues you go through when something like this happens, and exercise was a really key component in helping me fight anything that came up," Leason said.
Through the Challenged Athletes Foundation, he was introduced to water skiing and surfing, sports he enjoyed as a boy.
Leason now competes in different watersports competitions around the country, and raced in this year’s Ironman Oceanside as a way to raise money and give back to the organizations that helped him return to living a normal life.
"When I was blinded, I would have never dreamed I would be in Ironman and surfing championships," he said. "Now, I’m reaching my goals."