Runner Dubbed ‘Bullet Man’ Was Shot In The Head 40 Years Ago During Marathon…And Still Finished

Exhaustion after the race. Photo: bytepark (Getty)

Dennis Rainer has heard all the jokes. Possibly his favorite? “Faster than a speeding bullet! … nope, not quite.”

The long-time runner is aptly nicknamed “Bullet Man.” The reason being 40 years ago, he was shot in the head while running a marathon. On top this, he still made it to the finish line.

It was 1978. Rainer was 26-years-old. He was trying to qualify for Boston while running the Grand Rapids Marathon in Grand Rapids, Michigan. However, it was while running through a rural area near Grand Valley State’s campus (around mile ten) that something knocked him to the ground.

At first the runner thought he was hit by a rock or brick from nearby spectators. After a quick self-check, he got back on his feet and continued running. Other than a headache and some ringing in his ears, he felt fine. He ran the remaining 16 miles, crossed the finish line, met his wife, grabbed a hot dog, and walked to the medical tent before discovering he had been shot.


It didn’t take doctors long to see the problem.

“Finally he said, you know I don’t know, but I think you’ve been shot,” Rainer recalled the doctor telling him. “I suddenly got real nervous, real sick and thought ‘that explains a lot if that’s what really happened.’”

And it was. At Butterworth Hospital later, doctors found a .22 caliber slug lodged in the upper part of Rainer’s skull.

This was the bullet they pulled from Rainer’s head, which the runner has saved all these years.

marathon runner, bullet man

Photo: WGN

What’s even more unbelievable is even though Rainer didn’t qualify for Boston, he only missed time by a few minutes, finishing the race in a remarkable 3:09!

People have been shot at for less: Arizona Woman Fires Gun At Her Husband While He’s On The Toilet To ‘Make Him Listen’

Once Rainer’s story went public, his phone rang off the hook. Boston Marathon race officials even contacted him, allowing him into the race. You know, since his time was slowed after being shot in the head and all. Soon after, the nickname “Bullet Man” became his calling card.

“I think this is going to be on my tombstone, don’t you?” joked Rainer in the story below. When he found out he was shot, Rainer also said to the doctor, “That explains a lot.” Simply unbelievable.

Josh Helmuth is a sports reporter in St. Louis who contributes to Mandatory. He’s ran two marathons. Thankfully, he’s never been shot.