Jose Luis Sanchez doesn’t even like running. He makes that clear while smiling inside the finishers’ corral of the 2017 Boston Marathon. But for more than five hours Monday morning, he did run. Why? Because he’s thankful that he can. He finished the Boston marathon in 5:46:13 in 2017 but he 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. “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 workout to become the person I used to be.”
“When I was recovering, I couldn’t stand up for three seconds or walk for more than two feet,” Sanchez said. “I fought for four or five years to be able to walk and lift my body. Then I wanted to push it further by doing a marathon.”
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 up for three or four years because I didn’t want to acknowledge it,” the 33-year-old told Runner’s World on Monday.
Sanchez, who runs to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, an organization that helps wounded veterans, has now completed three of the 26.2-mile events. He ran his first, the Marine Corps marathon in Washington, D.C., in 2015, before completing his inaugural Boston Marathon last year.
“I do this to inspire people; it’s to inspire people to say yes to something they are afraid of,” Sanchez said. So even though he doesn’t like running, he does it anyway. He said he is not done running marathons, carrying the flag that motivated him to start in the first place.
“It’s for others to be inspired, to be motivated. I don’t do it for myself,” Sanchez told WBZ. “We live for others — I’ve learned that throughout being angry, and frustrated, and with all that PTSD. I’m channeling it to be positive and to give back to whatever I have taken away from the community.”