Former Marine strives to be the fastest amputee distance runner

In November 2010, Andy Grant elected to amputate his right leg below the knee. He woke up from the operation feeling relief, “like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders,” he said.

The surgery marked the next step in a 21-month struggle to recover from an IED blast that tore several large chunks out of both of Grant’s legs in February 2009 while serving with the British Royal Marines in Afghanistan. 

After the blast, Grant was put in a medically induced coma for two weeks and lost six centimetres of bone in his right tibia and fibula. Surgeons inserted a rod hoping to accelerate bone growth, but with nerve damage, zero ankle flexibility and near-constant pain, Grant became frustrated with his limited mobility as he continued to rehab the leg. When he could finally walk again - before his leg was amputated - he suffered from a limp. 

“I was used to being this Marine with a real zest for life, and then I found myself disabled,” he told Runner’s World. “I chose amputation to get that lifestyle back.”

Grant wanted to compete and get back to the gruelling workouts he was used to as a Marine. 

Now 28 and living in Liverpool, he has become an accomplished runner and motivational speaker. Grant was outfitted with a running blade a few months after the amputation, and went on to complete the Liverpool Half Marathon in 2013, finishing in a time of 1:58:27. This past July on a local track in front of several hundred spectators, he completed a 10K in 37:17, the fastest known time at the distance for a single-leg amputee.

“I probably could have run it faster,” Grant said. Members form his local running club, the Liverpool Harriers, paced him for the 25 laps. “But I stupidly started cheering before the finish. I had my two sisters waiting at the line. We all had this big hug. It was a day I will treasure forever.”

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Then on the 3rd of February, filmmakers premiered Paragon, an hour-long documentary about Grant’s training for the 10K. 

“I think the main message of the film for me really is that you can redefine yourself,” Grant said. “I no longer want to be defined as Andy, the guy who was once injured in the Marines.”

Grant and the filmmakers are currently working on finding a distributor.

No official records are kept above 1500 metres for Grant’s disability, so his 10K time is not sanctioned, but he said based on his own research he broke the mark by 20 seconds. Canadian amputee runner Rick Ball set the previous fastest known time, running 37:37 in 2009.

Grant decided to train for the record in 2014 after earning two gold medals in the 400 metres and 1500 metres at the Invictus Games - an athletics and multi-sport competition hosted by Prince Harry for wounded service personnel. 

He now has the goal of breaking 17 minutes in the 5K

Before he puts on the running blade to work out, Grant will often look down at a tattoo on his shin. The dark ink used to read, “You’ll never walk alone,” a slogan from his football club, Liverpool. 

When surgeons needed to wrap extra skin around the stump after the amputation, the tattoo was inadvertently changed. It now reads, “You’ll never walk.”

Grant now laughs at the irony, then goes for a run.