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Every day’s a marathon for double amputee

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U.S Marines Capt. Matt Perry, left, of Albuquerque, runs along the North Diversion Channel with Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Rob Jones, who lost both legs when he stepped on an explosive device in Afghanistan. Perry and Jones served in the same unit in Afghanistan. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Rob Jones was serving as a Marine in southwestern Afghanistan in 2010.

A combat engineer, he was working to clear an IED-laden area when one exploded.

He lost both of his legs above the knee as a result of the blast.

The Virginia native’s list of accomplishments since then shows no sign of disability: He was a bronze medalist in rowing in the 2012 Paralympics and rode his bicycle more than 5,000 miles across the country in 2013.

Now, he’s in the midst of running a marathon every day for 31 days, each in a different city.

Wednesday found him in Albuquerque, where he completed his 21st marathon, putting him at somewhere around 550 miles since Oct. 12.

“It sometimes happens to be the case that a wounded veteran comes home and people think that they’re now a broken veteran or a broken person and they can’t keep contributing to society because of their injuries,” Jones said, sitting outside his RV during a 20-minute break from running. “I’m trying to, by my own example, dispel that myth. I’m trying to be a guy that went to Afghanistan, had a traumatic experience and was still able to come home and find my new way to contribute.”

Jones, 32, is also encouraging donations to charities that support wounded veterans.

Each day, Jones begins his run at 7 a.m. He typically runs the 26 miles in four loops, taking 20 minutes of rest between each.

Afterward, it’s on to the next city, leaving no later than 5 p.m.

While foot or knee pain aren’t issues Jones has to face, he said he experiences hot spots from his prosthetics rubbing against his skin and lower back pain.

He said he spent a year-and-a-half training, working especially to strengthen the tendons and muscle in his hips.

In every city, Jones is greeted by supporters, who often bring supplies and hand-made signs of encouragement.

Jones also invites people to run along with him.

Matt Perry of Albuquerque, a Marine who served in Jones’ unit in Afghanistan, joined him on Wednesday.

“I mean, if you’re going to run one, then it’s kind of good to just bite the bullet and get it over with,” Perry, who has run a marathon before, said. “This is number 21, so I understand the breaks.”

Jones started his “Month of Marathons” in London.

Since then, he’s run in cities around North America, including New York City, Toronto, Chicago, Denver and Phoenix. He’ll finish on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“I had a tragedy happen. I lost both legs above the knee,” Jones said. “Instead of seeing that as something that was preventing me from trying to have an impact on the world, I flipped that on its head and I used my disability to make an impact on the world.”

We welcome suggestions for the daily Bright Spot. Send to newsroom@abqjournal.com.

 

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