ATLANTA — Jarryd Wallace said running has always been a part of who he is. But he learned that his purpose in life as a runner wouldn’t unfold like he expected.
“I remember running on this track since I was 7 years old.”
He was a Georgia state champion runner with plans to compete for the University of Georgia. He’d join the legacy of many NCAA Champions and Olympians before him.
It’s all he wanted.
Then, an injury forced him on a long and life-changing detour.
“I had a total of 10 reconstructive surgeries," he said. “I didn’t think running was ever going to be something I would be able to do again.”
A doctor told him the only way to be an athlete again was to amputate his leg and compete with a prosthetic.
“There was a time I was mad at God," he said. “But then I got to the place to make the decision to amputate, I had peace.”
Jarryd was 19 when he decided to lose his leg to regain his passion in life.
“Running again on a prosthetic it was this freeing feeling," he said. “I remember being pain free and being able to run.” Three years before that having the ability to be back on the track seemed impossible."
He discovered his love of track and field didn’t change. His why – did.
“I kind of gained this new perspective of gratitude. Running because less about my identity and winning and performance and more about the joy of experiencing training and activity again," he explained.
Nine years later, Wallace is a four-time world record-holder, three-time world champion, two-time Paralympian and member of Atlanta Track Club Elite.
He feels he’s gone through his journey to help lead others through theirs. It’s why he has a team for this weekend’s Wings for Life World run. It's a virtual race to run for those who can’t.
And - this summer Wallace will compete in his third Paralympics.
“It is way bigger than winning medals it’s about creating opportunities for the sport and the adaptive community," he said.
The Wings for Life World Run is on May 9th. The virtual race will see hundreds of thousands people all over the world participating and running for those who can’t.