It’s late October in Chicago. A crescendo of oranges, greens and reds span the areas’ trees and shrubs.
Amid this time of change, runner Brian Reynolds is busy changing time.
The Boston native, who developed an admiration for marathons as a spectator, breaks the double below-the-knee amputee world marathon record with a time of 3:06:31.
It’s his first attempt at any real milestone.
But less than two years in the sport, Reynolds is nowhere near done.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere close to what I can actually do,” Reynolds shared in a recent interview with Class Act. “I haven’t remotely found where my ceiling is with athletics.”
Following his success at the 2017 event, Reynolds represented Team USA in last spring’s World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup. He beat his Chicago time by nearly three minutes and won his category. Reynolds believed he had more to give.
He wanted a sub-3-hour performance.
“Whether it was the (emergency) gall bladder surgery, or the extremely hot day, or the fact that I had to run the entire course 100 percent solo, or maybe all of those things put together, I only ran 3:03 there,” Reynolds recalls.
The proud father of two is no stranger to challenges. At age four, he lost his legs below the knee after contracting memingococcemia, a blood infection that is caused by the same bacteria as meningitis.
Reynolds’ parents encouraged him to be active early and often. Despite some typical teen resistance, he obliged and eventually found himself in the weight room. But, he wasn’t just working out. He was competing as a powerlifter and continually learning about his body.
An athlete who could put up more weight than many of his able-bodied counterparts, Reynolds’ endurance was less than inspirational.
“There was a time when I couldn’t even walk a mile,” he recalls.
So, like anything else, he looked to improve.
He began by hiking. He hiked the Grand Canyon. He met his wife trekking atop a mountain in Zion. And, after conquering Kilimanjaro, he began to jog.
Then he began to run.
Initially, Reynolds’ training differed from other competitors.
“My first marathon, I showed up at the starting line without really having run at all,” Reynolds said. “I did the entire marathon basically on high-intensity interval training. That’s not recommended, as it turns out.”
Reynolds has since expanded his training, which has included lots of running, cross-training, swimming, and extended time on his ElliptiGO bike. The latter is designed to help provide reprieve to joint compression that many amputees experience in running; but even those workouts were arduous and demanding.
“Every year, my legs have a few-thousand more miles in them worth of endurance and training. I think that additional mileage definitely gives me more, the pace is coming easier with each run.”
Still, each training cycle has brought its own, added obstacle.
“I really have no idea what my actual cap is yet.”
Despite the difficulties, Reynolds keeps pushing and exploring what he can do. Earlier this year, he ran 30 miles on his 30th birthday, a pact he made with himself at age 20.
“It was a decade-long dream culminating right there,” he jests. “Everybody said I was crazy when I was 20. Actually, everybody still says I’m crazy, so not much has changed.”
And while Reynolds remains focused on what he can accomplish, he’s also mindful of what he can do for others.
He partnered with Climb for Sight, a charity that provides sight-saving surgeries in underdeveloped countries, as part of some of his early hikes. He has also partnered with Team in Training multiple times, as part of the group’s effort to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
On Friday, Reynolds will make the trip from his home in New Jersey back to the autumn colors of the Windy City for another crack at the Chicago Marathon.
Reynolds’ brother will join him on Sunday and help provide some support from the sidelines. Several, seasoned runners provided by the marathon and ElliptiGo will help Reynolds keep pace.
He’s rehabbed, but a recent hip injury – one of those pesky obstacles that seem to come out of nowhere – keeps Reynolds a bit diffident about his ambitions for the record books. His goal?
“Just a sub-3.”
Just a sub-3-hour marathon for a blade runner who is still working to find his stride.