Growing up in Athens, Ga., Jarryd Wallace didn't spend his afternoons parked in front of the television. As soon as he got home from school, Wallace changed into his running clothes and headed out with his mom, Sabina, for a long jog.
During those runs through the Georgia countryside, Wallace developed a passion for running. When he got to high school in 2005, he joined the cross country team and won 10th place in the statewide rankings. The next year, he became the third fastest high school cross country runner in the state.
Wallace had high hopes for earning the top spot his junior year, but going into track season during his sophomore year, he began to feel intense pain in his right leg. His doctor diagnosed him with a stress reaction, blaming the injury on Wallace's strenuous training.
Wallace ran through the pain and in 2007, as a junior, became High School State Champion in the 800m and 1600m. But the pain got worse, and three years later, Wallace sat in a doctor's office hearing the words he thought would end his running career--your leg must be amputated.
Later this summer, Wallace will compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Despite his crushing loss and a grueling recovery, Wallace still chases records. His determination to keep running is a testimony to both his perseverance and his faith.
"God is so good! From day one my eyes have been set on running in the 2012 Paralympics in London, England, and setting world records. Although these may seem like lofty dreams and goals, I wouldn't be me if I didn't set them and then run for Him after them," Wallace wrote in a recent post on his website.
But Wallace didn't always feel so hopeful or grateful to God.
Not long after he became the fastest high school runner in the state, doctors diagnosed Wallace with Compartment Syndrome, a condition that causes increased pressure in a muscle compartment and can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.
Through two years and 10 surgeries followed by painful recoveries, Wallace ran from God. It became increasingly hard to trust in God's goodness, especially when he learned he might never run again: "I went up to my room and lay on my futon just staring at the wall. I looked at one of the pictures that I had hanging on my wall. It had a cartoon image of a runner and underneath it read, 'Life is Good.' I looked at that picture, threw my pillow at it and yelled, No, it's not...it sucks!'"
He left the house and forced himself to run as hard as he could around the track, despite excruciating pain. He collapsed at the end of the lap and in his anger he turned farther away from God.
"I couldn't imagine why He had allowed this to happen to me," Wallace told World on Campus. "I decided right there that I wanted nothing more to do with Him."
But on Jan. 6, 2010, Wallace stopped running and gave in to God. Through all that time, Wallace felt like God was just taking shots at him. But after an unexpected and painful breakup, Wallace admitted he had tried to use his former girlfriend to get closer to God. Instead, he felt like God had taken her from him.
"When I voiced that thought out loud, I felt the Lord's presence stronger than I had ever felt before," he said. "It was as if He were telling me, 'Jarryd, you don't need her, or anyone, or anything to get closer to me. I am right here, I always have been, and I always will be. I am just waiting for you, Jarryd, to stop running from me, and start running with me."
That day, everything changed. Wallace realized he needed God's help and guidance. The previous two years only felt hard because he tried to do everything on his own.
Two months after he became a Christian, Wallace learned that his leg would have to be amputated. He was only 19 years old.
Even though it sounded like "the scariest thing imaginable" for him to hear, with God's "strength it sounded like the greatest news ever," Wallace said. He believed that God would be with him throughout the process.
As soon as he returned to the hotel where his family stayed while he visited his doctor, Wallace started looking up world records for Paralympic Track and Field.
"I called my parents into the room and pointed to the computer screen," he recalled. "I said, 'I want my name to be on this list!'"
That day, Wallace decided to go ahead with the amputation.
Wallace had his operation on June 22, 2010. He began training for the Paralympics the following January under the guidance of coach Ross Ridgewell.
After his junior year of high school, Wallace accepted a scholarship to run cross country at the University of Georgia, where his father coaches the women's tennis team and his mother ran on the cross country team as a student. But Wallace would never compete as a collegian, although UGA did honor his scholarship.
In 2011, Wallace competed in track in the U.S. Paralympic Nationals, becoming the fastest single amputee in the world for the 100m and qualifying to run in the 2012 Paralympic Games. Although he took a year-long break from school after his freshman year to train for the games, the University of Georgia awarded Wallace its 2012 Athletic Association Inspiration Award.
When he learned his Nationals performance earned him a place on the 2011 ParaPan American USA team, all Wallace could think about was how much God had blessed him.
"To think, only 13 months before this, I had my leg amputated," he said. "Now, I had an opportunity to represent the United States of America, my country, doing the one thing I love to do more than anything, run. God is so good!"