Real Run­ners

Fol­low­ing the par­tial am­pu­ta­tion of his right leg, for­mer Royal Marine Andy Grant took up run­ning. Now he holds the 10K world record

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

How badly in­jured for­mer Royal Marine Andy Grant broke a world record

Seven years ago, Royal Marine Andy Grant was on an early morn­ing pa­trol in Afghanistan when an IED (im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice) went off, shat­ter­ing his legs, pep­per­ing his body with shrap­nel and chang­ing his life for­ever.

‘I was scream­ing for help,’ he re­mem­bers. ‘My femoral artery was sev­ered. I could have bled to death in six min­utes. I owe my life to the peo­ple who stemmed the bleeding while we waited for the he­li­copter.’

When he ar­rived at the lo­cal hospi­tal, Andy was put in an in­duced coma. Two weeks later, he woke up in Selly Oak hospi­tal in Birm­ing­ham. The dam­age was se­vere: along with his badly bro­ken legs, Andy had 25 sep­a­rate in­juries, in­clud­ing shrap­nel wounds to his face, a bro­ken arm and ster­num, and wide­spread nerve dam­age. It was clear that his mil­i­tary ca­reer was over and a long road to re­cov­ery lay ahead.

Two years later, most of Andy’s wounds had healed, but his right leg was so badly dam­aged he couldn’t feel it, let alone use it for the ac­tive life­style he’d once had and still craved. So he took the de­ci­sion to have it am­pu­tated be­low the knee.

‘I needed to move on,’ he ex­plains. ‘I didn’t want to be some­one who lived off past glo­ries and spent their life say­ing, “When I was a Marine”.’

The am­pu­ta­tion was car­ried out in Novem­ber 2010 and Andy wore his prosthetic for the first time on Christ­mas Day that year. He was walk­ing by the fol­low­ing Easter and, by sum­mer, run­ning on the beach with his dog.

Andy had never run a race be­fore the ex­plo­sion, but an un­ex­pected tal­ent was re­vealed when, in 2014, he took part in the in­au­gu­ral In­vic­tus Games – an Olympics-style com­pe­ti­tion for wounded ser­vice per­son­nel: he won gold in the 400m and 1500m. But with a pref­er­ence for longer dis­tances, he de­cided to make an at­tempt on the be­low-theknee-am­putee 10K world record.

He joined Liver­pool Har­ri­ers, where he rubs shoul­ders with elite ath­letes such as Olympic hep­tath­lete Kata­rina John­sonThomp­son. ‘The big­gest com­peti­tor in run­ning is your­self and that is so im­por­tant,’ he says. ‘But it’s great to have club­mates to push you, and faster run­ners to tar­get.’ Fit­ness and mo­ti­va­tion are not lack­ing in Andy’s make-up but the stump left from the am­pu­ta­tion has pre­sented chal­lenges. The shrap­nel that tore through his body has left a lot of scars and he fre­quently suf­fers sores that can be­come in­fected. This ne­ces­si­tates rest – some­thing that does not come eas­ily to Andy, now 28.

‘Be­ing part of the club and work­ing with the coach, Tony Clarke, has given me struc­ture again, and with my mil­i­tary back­ground I re­ally need that,’ he says. ‘I train six times a week, in­clud­ing re­ally hard in­ter­vals, and a long run on Sun­days.’

Andy’s run­ning progress has been dra­matic. His 10K PB dropped from 40:30 to 38:45 at the Bri­tish 10K in May and then, in July, he ran 37:17, smash­ing the pre­vi­ous world best – set by Cana­dian Rick Ball seven years ago – by 38 sec­onds.

‘Break­ing the world record was an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing,’ he says. ‘I knew I had it with about 800m to go but just kept push­ing the pace. Achiev­ing my goal was over­whelm­ing for a while, but I’m al­ways look­ing for­ward.’

Andy’s sights are now set on break­ing Rick Ball’s half-marathon world record of 1:20:44 and his marathon record of 2:57:47. And, hav­ing dis­cov­ered that 400m is the long­est run­ning dis­tance avail­able to him in the Par­a­lympic Games, he plans to put pres­sure on the au­thor­i­ties to in­clude longer run­ning dis­tances. ‘It would be great to be given a chance to rep­re­sent my coun­try, and there’s no rea­son to limit the dis­tances the way they have,’ he says. It was Andy’s com­pet­i­tive spirit that led him to the Marines in the first place. By his own ad­mis­sion, he was drift­ing through his A-lev­els and con­tem­plat­ing univer­sity when he saw an ad­vert for the Marines that read, ‘99.9 per cent need not ap­ply’ – a chal­lenge he could not re­sist. He signed up at 17 and at just 18 he had se­cured the cov­eted Green Beret, un­der­tak­ing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next two years.

The story of Andy’s re­mark­able re­cov­ery and un­stop­pable drive has in­spired many – a doc­u­men­tary called Paragon is be­ing made about his life and he is in great de­mand as a mo­ti­va­tional speaker.

‘I’m try­ing to in­spire peo­ple to take on new chal­lenges and get out­side their com­fort zones,’ he says. ‘I tell them that 10 per cent of your life is about the sit­u­a­tion you’re in and 90 per cent is about what you do about it. Any­thing is pos­si­ble. If I have one re­gret, it’s that I didn’t do a 10K race when I had two legs. Then I’d have a tar­get to beat now.’

‘I didn’t want to be some­one who lived off past glo­ries’

MAN WITH A MIS­SION Andy in his for­mer ca­reer as a Royal Marine, and break­ing the 10K world record in July

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