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Ever since he lost his leg in an explosion in Afghanistan, Puyallup native Edward Lychik has been proving people wrong. And the soldier hopes running the Boston Marathon next week will inspire others to overcome obstacles like he has.
Lychik, who now lives in Tacoma, was a combat engineer assigned to a Stryker brigade from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, when he was critically wounded in Afghanistan on his 21st birthday.
Doctors had to amputate his left leg at the hip socket, and told him if he ever even walked again, he would need crutches.
"I couldn't take that as an answer, you know I just turned 21-years-old," he tells KIRO Radio's Ron and Don Show.
To help him walk again, specialists had to invent parts for a prosthetic leg that is anchored by a belt around his waist.
Lychik proved the experts wrong, learning to walk first with crutches, then tossing them aside and walking without any assistance.
"Once I finally didn't need my crutches I just tossed them as far as I could and was just like 'in your face,'" he says.
But walking wasn't enough for Lychik. He wanted to run. It took plenty of trial and error before he and his prosthetist came up with a solution that would allow him to run.
"You know we went through over a thousand adjustments just to get a model that would work, trying different parts. There's nowhere to go buy the books to create the hip running leg. It was all experimenting."
The experiment worked. Just two weeks after coming up with the working model, Lychik completed a 12-mile Tough Mudder competition. Then he set his sights on a marathon.
His therapist told him about a team running in the upcoming Boston Marathon in honor of an 8-year-old boy killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. He hopes to be an inspiration both to amputees and the fully able-bodied alike.
"It's about showing what people are capable of doing, showing what the human spirit is capable of doing. I want to show people what they are capable of doing with those two legs that they have and really learning to believe in themselves."
Along with running, the former soldier hopes to inspire through public speaking. He's just started making presentations to school kids.
"When I was in the hospital laying there, I had all these needles stuck in my arms and I was in a very limited mindset. I was looking at all the things I couldn't do," he says. But somehow a switch flipped and he began thinking about what he could do.
"My squad leader back in the military told me the only person that can ever stop you is you. And I took that to heart," he says.
We'll be keeping a close eye on Lychik in next Monday's race, and let you know he does. And as if 26.2 miles isn't enough, Lychik says he's giving serious thought to an ultra-marathon of 100 miles or more.