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Ralston: ‘I definitely gave up’

Mitch Andrews / Lantern photographer

Aron Ralston was going to die.

He had accepted this fact. It no longer bothered him, nor did it disturb him. On the contrary: it comforted him. He was so certain of this he recorded a video goodbye to his family.

“I definitely gave up,” he said. “The depth of that despair eventually turned into a sense of peace.”

These thoughts were going through his head while his arm was pinned between a boulder and a canyon wall during a hike in Utah. After spending days trying to escape, Ralston accepted his fate. The only way he could escape would be amputate his own arm, but all he had was a dull pocketknife; a knife he said was as sharp as the handle of a spoon.

Yet he escaped, and he came to Ohio State on Monday night to talk about it.

After more than five days of being stranded, Ralston used the pocketknife to slowly and painfully remove his right arm. When he finally achieved his goal, he felt a sense of freedom that he can barely describe in words.

“It was euphoria,” he said in an interview with The Lantern. “It was the most powerful thing I’ve probably ever experienced.”

Ralston had decided he’d rather die trying to free himself than die in that one spot.

“I’d rather take the probability of dying than the certainty of dying,” he said.

Eight years later, Ralston is universally seen as an inspirational figure. In 2004 he wrote a book about the incident entitled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” Last year his story was adapted into the film “127 Hours,” which was directed by Danny Boyle and starred James Franco as Ralston. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Picture.

Ralston knew when he originally wrote the book that he was interested in making the film a reality, as movies tend to get more widespread attention than books. He was involved with the production of the film from beginning to end.

“There are going to be a lot of people who will go see a movie that won’t necessarily read a book,” he said.

One of Ralston’s darkest moments came several weeks after he had freed himself from the canyon. While he was recovering in the hospital, he had become removed from civilization and the outdoors he loved so much. The seclusion and immobility become so unbearable that he considered suicide.

It was then he got a letter in the mail from a woman who was also suicidal. She wrote that hearing Ralston’s story inspired her to keep going no matter what. It was that moment when Ralston decided that he was not going to give in to these thoughts. This was also the moment when he decided he had no choice but to write his book.

“Our lives aren’t just to enrich ourselves; they’re also to enrich others,” he said. “We need these kinds of stories.”

Ralston is always looking to share his story with others. Besides the book and the movie, he makes speaking appearances several times a year.

However, his speech Monday night at OSU was especially personal. Both of his parents are OSU alums, and he was born in Marion, Ohio.

“It’s a special night,” he said.

These days, a claw exists where his right arm once was. He has a light demeanor, and he’s always willing to joke. Back in 2006, Ralston appeared in a series of Miller Lite commercials as part of their “Man Laws” campaign. In one ad, other celebrities openly mock Ralston’s story.

“By that point I had long discovered the value of my arm for cheap jokes,” Ralston chuckled.

Ralston continues to hike and climb mountains to this day.

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