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Paralyzed Secret Service Agent Trains For First Boston Marathon

BOSTON (CBS) -- Garrett FitzGerald is getting ready for his first Boston Marathon, under circumstances he never imagined.

FitzGerald was a rookie Secret Service agent three years ago when the car he and three other agents were riding in was hit head on. It left him paralyzed from the neck down, and doctors told him that he wouldn't be able to move or feel anything from his neck down.

Garrett FitzGerald
Secret Service Agent Garrett FitzGerald in 2016. (Photo from GoFundMe page)

"At that moment, that was true. Since then, I've gotten a lot of right arm movement back," Fitzgerald told WBZ-TV. "I've been able to maintain and increase muscle mass ever since, and I've been making small improvements each day."

His latest improvement is the greatest of them all. Earlier this week, Fitzgerald stood up for the first time since the accident.

It has been a long road to recovery, with Fitzgerald's days filled with workouts at Journey Forward in Canton, designed to help his body re-learn the most basic movements. Fitzgerald credits much of his progress to the specialists at the facility.

Garrett FitzGerald
Garrett FitzGerald at Journey Forward in Canton,(WBZ-TV)

"They give a lot of people a lot of hope," Fitzgerald said of Journey Forward. "People make a lot of recovery and improvement to their bodies here that would be difficult to do elsewhere. It's just a good crew of people who are in it for the right reasons."

Fitzgerald has his own crew supporting him, including co-worker Don McGrail. He suggested that they team up and hit the road.

"We got together with Team Hoyt and they helped us find a great chair. It started from there," said Fitzgerald.

"I knew this was something he and I could do, and that many of our friends and colleagues from the office, we could all run together," said McGrail. "That's what motivated us to start running."

Garrett FitzGerald
Garrett FitzGerald. (WBZ-TV)

Before the accident, Fitzgerald's workout of choice was Cross Fit. While this isn't the same, he'll tell you it's pretty good.

"Just to be out there, just moving around, covering 10, 15, 20 miles on runs is amazing," he said. "I can't really go out there on my own and cover that kind of distance. Going in a running chair and going for long runs is amazing."

Together, they are Team Fitz. They have done 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and one marathon together last May on Martha's Vineyard. Now they're ready to take on the 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston, all to raise money for Journey Forward.

"It's not about time," said McGrail. "It's about getting out there and enjoying the experience."

Boston is now the duo's next adventure.

"The energy I've seen from the sidelines is amazing," said Fitzgerald. "I can only imagine what it's going to be like to be in the race."

"It's the granddaddy of all marathons," added McGrail. "To have an opportunity to get out there and run it, and raise awareness and money for Journey Forward, you just can't ask for more than that."

McGrail has seen firsthand what Journey Forward has meant to his running partner.

"Hope. I've seen hope. And I've seen a real improvement in his physical fitness and mental health," he explained. "I've been here a few times and I always am impressed by the positive atmosphere here, the feeling of optimism."

And it will take all of that to go the distance on Marathon Monday.

Garrett FitzGerald
Don McGrail and Garrett FitzGerald on a training run. (WBZ-TV)

"We encourage each other. Don's a machine and it's great to be out there with him. It's inspiring," said Fitzgerald.

"Running with Garrett is the easiest thing I've ever done," said McGrail. "Anybody who runs knows you get tired and want to quit or back off. But when you're part of a team, when you're running together and can lift each other up in those hard times, it's easy. It's easy."

WBZ-TV is the exclusive local broadcaster of the Boston Marathon. Pre-race coverage begins at 7 a.m. on Monday, April 15, followed by race coverage at 9 a.m.

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