AROUND NJ

Paralympic Hopeful Wants to Raise Awareness About Amputee Athletes

By Christine Valdez
Web Production Assistant

Reynolds practicing at a track. Photo courtesy of Brian Reynolds.

Running has given Clifton resident Brian Reynolds a new outlook on life and an opportunity to chase a track career despite being a double amputee from an early age.

After losing both of his legs to an illness at the age of 4, Reynolds says that he has been active for the last 21 years. Despite the illness, Reynolds says that it wasn’t hard for him to adjust to the change in his life and due to his young age at the time, he barely remembers his life before prosthetics.

“I was 4, so I think the difficulties of a child adjusting are so much less than people who are older from traumatic injuries like soldiers and stuff because there’s so much less of a learning curve,” said Reynolds.

Over the years, Reynolds began partaking in activities such as hiking and joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Reynolds says that he had joined the group to help raise money for the cause. Along the way he was introduced to hiking and eventually began to make the transition into running.

“I joined a charity team called the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and you basically raise money for them,” said Reynolds. “They’re mostly known for their endurance like marathons or half marathons and triathlons.”

When he joined the organization, Reynolds learned about the group’s hike program and decided that he wanted to join and give it a try. Along the way Reynolds got the opportunity to go hiking at the Grand Canyon and a few other parks. His experiences made him appreciate hiking. Later on he got the opportunity to hike at Yosemite National Park.

In 2013, Reynolds was looking for a hiking experience outside of the country and had the opportunity to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

After having the opportunity to hike around the world, Reynolds made the transition into running. Slowly but surely he made the transition and would train by time limits throughout the week. He recalls starting off at first by running a minute a day and increasing the time gradually.

Reynolds hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo courtesy of Brian Reynolds.

“Running has completely changed my life,” Reynolds said. “Actually when I started running, I could only run one minute per day for the first week then I ran two minutes per day for the second week until I had enough minutes racked up that made a mile.”

Reynolds met a friend through the charity group that helped him through the process of transitioning into running. According to Reynolds, both would train and go for runs together and would report their progress to each other.

Reynolds not only gained a new passion for hiking and running through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and found a training partner, he had found the person who would become his wife. He credits the organization with offering him the chance to meet people with the same passion and says he gained an entire network of friends and family.

After he started running, Reynolds decided to take a competitive turn, and competed in his first marathon last January — the Disney marathon.

“I did my first marathon in January,” Reynolds said. “I only started running late November, early December of 2013 and about a month later I ran my first marathon.”

Recently Reynolds decided to sign up for a Runner’s World magazine contest, featuring several runners and their stories. Reynolds says that he tried to share and show as much of his story as he could. He says that his entire life now consists of running and that he would have never had many of his life experiences if running had not become a part of his life.

By joining the contest, Reynolds not only hopes to share his story but wants to raise awareness about runners with special needs, such as himself as a double amputee.

Reynolds (left) running on a road. Photo courtesy of Brian Reynolds.

The winner of the contest will be featured on the magazine’s cover in a future issue, but Reynolds says that he wants to raise awareness for athletes and hopefully land sponsors in order to compete in more marathons, as Reynolds says that he wants to keep competing and hopefully make his way into the Paralympics.

“When you look at legs for running costing $25,000 a piece, it makes it rather difficult for most people to get legs,” Reynolds said. “Unless somebody sponsors you, and I’m lucky enough to have a company sponsor me with one pair, but they’re only good for one thing. They’re just for distance and I’m trying to run track for the Paralympics and people aren’t going to go give me another set of legs.”

Reynolds hopes to raise enough awareness for runners and for the cost of equipment but says that he is realistic about the contest.

“I would love to be in the top of the finalists in the competition to have a chance to be on the cover but if I don’t, I don’t,” said Reynolds. “I have come in contact with a lot of good people from it and maybe some of them will be able to help me out or maybe I will inspire somebody to do something that they couldn’t do but in the end it’s just a competition.”