By Marissa Payne, Washington Post
Retired Marine Staff Sergeant Jose Luis Sanchez didn’t intend to become a role model. He started working out just so he could feel like himself again after an encounter with an IED during a patrol of Afghanistan in 2011 left him with an amputated left leg and injured right calf.
“The injury humbled me,” Sanchez, a former high school football, basketball and track athlete, told GrindTV. “I lost all my muscle mass. I lost a ton of weight. I couldn’t walk or move or stand up. I needed assistance just to get out of my wheelchair, and even then I couldn’t walk more than a foot without collapsing. … I just wanted to work out to become the person I used to be.”
Six years later, Sanchez is inspiring millions by not only completing the Boston Marathon, but by running the 26.2 miles with the American flag his patrol unit signed and sent to the hospital years ago when he was still recovering.
“I boxed it up for three or four years because I didn’t want to acknowledge it,” the 33-year-old told Runner’s World on Monday.
When he finally unwrapped it in 2015, he also decided to uncloak himself in a way. Until then, Sanchez had been working out alone, always hiding his wounds when he went out.
“I didn’t want to hear that negativity,” the San Antonio native told GrindTV. “I felt ugly. Nobody wants to see those wounds, hell, I don’t even want to see them.”
But seeing that flag again, covered in inspirational quotes from his friends, lit a fire under him, he said, and gave him the motivation he needed to eschew any remaining negativity.
Sanchez began posting his workouts online, both to Instagram and Facebook, where he’s amassed more than 50,000 followers. Now with the world behind him, Sanchez, who told Runner’s World he doesn’t even like to run, decided to take on his biggest athletic challenge yet — the marathon.