Imagine yourself climbing a mountain. We’re not talking your normal Sunday hike—but instead taking on any one of the world’s highest peaks, at distances and elevations that take days to complete. For Brian Reynolds, making it to the mountaintop and then taking in all of its breathtaking scenery is an adrenaline rush very few people get to witness in person.

Even more amazing in Reynolds’ case, he’s been able to conquer this quest after losing both legs.

Brian Reynolds continues to thrive as an all-around adaptive athlete. He’s competed in powerlifting, is a championship-level runner—Reynolds is a six-time bilateral below the knee amputee record holder in both the marathon and half marathon. Now he’s turned his focus to climbing some of the world’s most challenging mountains.

It wasn’t always that way for him, though. Reynolds was born with a compromised immune system. He was diagnosed with meningococcemia (a form of meningitis).  It resulted in the amputation of his legs below the knee at age 4. Despite this obstacle, he revealed it could’ve been much worse.

“As far as survivors go, I’m actually very lucky because it affects all four limbs for most people, and it can also have a cognitive component to it.”

Reynolds doesn’t remember much about that time of his life or the recovery that was required to continue moving on with his life. He says his biggest obstacle wasn’t physical, but instead was a mental challenge. Growing up, Reynolds was more concerned about what others would think about him wearing prosthetics.

“Even when it was 110 degrees, I was wearing jeans,” Reynolds admits.

Paraathlete Brian Reynolds climbing down a mountain path

Physical and Mental Breakthroughs

Even though he had this mental hurdle, there were no physical setbacks, but he had no high expectations for physical excellence. That was until he went into college.

“I finally started thinking to myself, why can’t I strive? Is it that I truly can’t do, or am I letting myself be shacked both mentally and physically?”

Reynolds would eventually get into weight training, and even dabbled with powerlifting, like his brother, who was big into the sport. Reynolds stepped on the platform just twice, and despite his limited experience, he’s managed to pull an impressive 485-pound deadlift while also bench-pressing 300.

His greatest achievement in a weightroom came on a day in an old-school gym that led him to move on from his insecure reliance for long pants in even the most uncomfortable of environments. At one point, the heat became so overwhelming that he finally gave in and put on a pair of shorts.

“I tentatively came out and was trying to slink between machines so people wouldn’t see me,” Reynolds recalls, “and that was the realization that nobody gave a damn at all. Everyone already knew about my legs, so they didn’t care. That was the last day I wore pants.”

That moment was much more than a switch for comfort. This was a mental freedom for Reynolds that he does not take for granted to this day.

“That was a breaking point for me,” he shared. “I realized I had been holding myself back with a perceived notion of what people think influencing me.”

Brian Reynolds Took Small Steps To Make Giant Strides

This new beginning was also a catalyst for another physical passion: running. He’s excelled at that as well, but Reynolds recalled that when he first started thinking about running, he couldn’t “walk a mile if there was a million dollars at the end.” He realized that just because he didn’t have legs, it didn’t mean he couldn’t take baby steps to get better.

“It began with one minute a day, every day for seven days. It was probably ten weeks before I got to a mile, but it allowed me to build up slowly.”

That dedication and patience served him well. HIs first dip into the world of endurance came after he graduated college with a group called Team in Training. The team trains together while raising money for a charity. He saw a brochure that referenced hiking the Grand Canyon as a fundraiser.

“The hiking part sounded amazing,” he said. “I signed up without the slightest hesitation. My family thought I was insane.”

Reynolds shared that even though he “pretty much crawled” out of the canyon and had help with his bag, he was successful with both the hike and fundraising goal, and the ball got rolling from there. He kept signing up for more events with Team in Training. This allowed him to gain more confidence every time he did one. Reynolds has raised his personal bar and reached heights many thought would not be possible, literally. One of the hikes he took part in was at Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013, but there was something significant about that flight to Africa.

“No one wanted to do it with me. So, it was just me and a guide.”

Brian Reynolds running a marathon

From Climbing to Running

Throughout the years since, he excelled at both climbing and running. He has run marathons and even competed for Team USA in international distance running races. In 2018, he was a part of the team that won the London Marathon World Para Championship. He recalled that one of the biggest challenges he faced had nothing to do with the running itself.

“Prosthetics are not covered [by insurance] when they are sports related,” he revealed. “My running prosthetics cost $30,000 a piece, and I have to have two of them.”

He began his running career in 2013 by using his walking prosthetics, which he compared to someone running in ski boots. The toll and pain can be intense without the right prosthetics. He finally started working with a company in New Jersey that was able to help him obtain prosthetics that he could run with. Reynolds shared that each person needs to be able to find their own model that they feel comfortable with, just like runners with legs need the most comfortable shoe.

“With prosthetics, that is amplified. You’re supporting a part of your leg that is not meant to bear weight,” he stated. “The muscles you have are working a lot harder because of those you don’t have. It takes a very skilled prosthetist to make sports prosthetics.” While there are organizations such as the M.A.R.C. Network, founded by Boston Marathon bombing survivor Marc Fucarile, that are working to help assist adaptive athletes with learning more about resources, Reynolds says it’s best for those seeking information to do their homework. If you or someone you know are interested in sports prosthetics, Reynolds advises to be careful choosing who to work with.

“I have seen actual door hinges that you can get at home improvement stores put into legs and a patient be billed thousands,” he said. “I use A Step Ahead Prosthetics in Long Island, New York.”

What’s Next for Brian Reynolds? Seven Summits

Reynolds now has his sights set on climbing again, and he won’t just be climbing one mountain. He is going after the highest peak on each of the seven continents. He has already climbed Mount Aconcagua in South America. Yes, he will go back to Kilimanjaro this summer for a single-day climb for good measure. He has faith that it won’t be a matter of if, but when he does it.

“I hope to knock off one to two every year with the big boy being Everest.”

Aside from enjoying pushing himself and seeing what he is capable of next, Brian Reynolds is aware that he is in a position to inspire others. He hopes that people who become aware of what he has done and continues to do will give them the incentive to achieve their own levels of success and pass that inspiration forward. That also plays a part in him pushing himself as well.

“I try to dream bigger and bigger and think of crazy projects every single year.”

You can follow Reynolds on Instagram @brianreynoldsrunner