The world’s top leg-amputee marathoner has smashed his own world record and a major sports barrier. Rick Ball, a 44-year-old Canadian who started racing just three years ago, ran a 2:57:48 Ottawa Marathon on May 30, snapping the tape four minutes ahead of his 2009 marathon world record time and scoring the world’s first sub-three-hour marathon by a transtibial amputee.
“It feels good to be the first single-leg amputee to break that three-hour mark,” Ball told CTV Ottawa. “It’s like Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile.” He later told reporters that he had gritted out the end of the race after developing stinging blisters on his residual limb. “I was hurting at the end there, but the crowd brought me in,” he said.
Ball’s coach, Roger DePlancke, trained Ball for the race over the past five months. “He’s only been running for three years, but he’s been successful at every single step,” DePlancke told the Ottawa Citizen. “He’s very coachable and goal-oriented; he’s very driven.”
According to CTV Ottawa, Ball originally decided to take up distance running only after seeing a carbon-fiber running prosthesis for the first time. Running on such a foot, he said, makes him feel “100 percent able-bodied, whole again.” Once he decided to run, his first ambition was to run the Boston Marathon. “My coach thought I was nuts,” Ball recalled, but he went on to set the transtibial world record there just two years later.
A father of two, Ball works as a Toronto Transit Commission mechanic. The lifelong athlete lost his left lower leg in a 1986 freeway accident when a piece of lumber hurtled off a truck and struck him while he rode his motorcycle. According to his Facebook page, Ball now hopes to compete in the London Paralympic Games in 2012. There, he would be likely to meet the same conditions that brought him to stardom in Ottawa-a famously flat, fast course featuring chilly, slightly rainy weather that cools athletes down to optimum running temperature and primes them for a flat-out push.