John Tartaglio is a 22 year old double amputee who completed the NYC marathon on Sunday. His prosthetic is the first made for an amputee of his level, and he is the first to complete a marathon on a running prosthetic without a thigh or femur bone on either side. John was nice enough to talk to me over the phone before and after the big day.
Friday Oct. 30th
How do you feel about the race?
Very good. I feel ready.
How did you prepare for the race?
I have a personal trainer with me, and my own plans. He kind of helped me plot it out. I like to do cross training so I’ll swim to keep my shoulders warm. The way I have to run is a lot different than you, I would say it’s more like weight lifting. I have to push my body a little bit more with the crutches.
Can you explain to me exactly how that works? How the running works?
So what I do is I use a swing through key and I have a flex foot, or a carbon fiber spring foot which is what people like to call it because of the way it looks. I just do a spring through and I kind of get some of my energy restored because of the balance. I try to use that energy to hold up myself and that takes a little bit off of my shoulders from holding me up.
Is this a common set up for someone with both legs amputated?
No way. I am pretty sure that I am the first person at my level to even be running or to have a running prosthetic, so it is that unique. Nobody has ever run a marathon so this is definitely the first in history. A lot of people that you’re used to running are above the knee or below the knee [amputees] and they have, you know your femur bone and your thigh bone, I don’t have that on either side so that’s what makes it so unique and that’s what makes it a first.
How do you work your way up to a marathon?
You know, just like any other person. You have to work yourself up gradually. For me I do a lot of weight lifting. To make sure that I have the strength to make sure I can keep pushing my body throughout that whole thing.
So you don’t use the same prosthesis for everyday as for walking.
The running ones are just for running. Once I’m up, I’m up. The other ones are a lot more functional for everyday use I can sit down I can stand up.
How long have you been running since your legs were amputated? Were you an athlete before?
Before when I was young I played baseball and basketball, and in high school I played soccer and football. I was never really into cardio, but my personal trainer kind of got me into the idea of triathalons.
[John Started walking only a year and a half after losing his legs and being told he would never walk again.]
Can you explain to me what the circumstances were that made you have to have them amputated?
So what happened was my junior year of high school, the summer going into my senior year, I became sick, I was sick for most of the summer, my doctor said that I had mono. More towards the school year, I woke up and I had pain in my leg and they brought me to the hospital, literally later that day they transferred me to another hospital, and I basically had a rare bacterial infection and I lost both my legs to that, it literally happened all that day. It was very rapid, a very deadly disease.
[John trained at least 5 hours a day to prepare for the marathon.]
Monday November 2nd. The Day after the Marathon.
I’m just waking up from a little nap.
I saw you on the course yesterday you were looking good.
It was great, it was a great day. It took me right around 16.5 hours. I‘m feeling pretty sore, more than I expected but I’m mobile.
Did they leave the course open all day for you?
They keep most of it blocked off. The only thing they had to do was they had to re-open the bridge at the Bronx. So we had to make up the distance in central park.
So you made it all the way!
Right after I finished I threw my arms up I was so happy.
Was there ever a moment when you really felt like you couldn’t make it?
Right around the 22 or 23 mile It was getting pretty rough out there.
Yeah the classic wall the most marathoner’s hit at about that time.
I felt pretty good though throughout the race I had a lot of support.
Do have any plans for future races?
I’m not really sure what my next big thing is, I’m sure I’ll come up with something. I have no clue what it is yet I’m just sort of soaking this up. I’m still on cloud nine from this whole thing.
You’ve covered a lot of ground. What else can you do? You can do the Iron Man.
I have definitely thought about that. I could do that marathon part on my wheelchair, but after completing this on my running leg I feel like I would be cheating what could be. I’d be out there way more than 24 hours,[laughs] that’s something we’re going to have to work on.
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