He lost his legs after falling on subway tracks. Now preparing for the New York Marathon: “Bring it on”

Four years ago, Roman “Rome” Leykin was on his way to work when he had a seizure and fell onto the Brooklyn L train tracks as a subway approached. The incident resulted in him losing both his legs and suffering a brain injury.

But with the loss of his legs, Leykin gained a new passion for racing. And on Sunday, Leykin, who now lives in Connecticut, will compete in the New York City Marathon in the hand cycling division.

“I really wanted to get that wind back in my hair, because I really liked going fast,” she told CBS News.

Lakein was never much of a runner. Before his accident, he said he wasn’t really that athletic — he just occasionally played basketball or ultimate frisbee. But everything changed when he found himself in a post-amputation rehabilitation facility. While there, someone from Achilles International, an organization that provides sports support for people with disabilities, introduced him to hand cycling.

“I didn’t know what it was, and then the second I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great. You don’t even need legs to use this thing, and look at me, I’ve got none. This is perfect,” he told CBS News. “So I got on it, drove it, and fell in love with it right away.”

Within months, he completed the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, a 40-mile ride through New York City. After that, he said it seemed like a “natural progression” to run his first marathon in 2021. He finished that race in 2 hours 11 minutes, placing 12th out of 38.

“I knew it was going to be very emotional. And it was, because I was almost crying the whole way through… So the first one was much more about getting a lot out of it,” he said. “…But in this year’s marathon, I will reap the rewards after the fact because my hands will be on the wheel, my eyes will be focused and I think my time will speak for itself.”

He has made a significant commitment to training. He bikes at least 13.1 miles twice a week in preparation for a marathon and spends a lot of time in the gym. He is on a mission to “conquer the world of hand cycling”.

“I haven’t seen many other double above-the-knee amputees on hand bikes cycling in marathons,” he said, saying most of those he’s seen run the marathon, which he also wants to do eventually.

“Now, I’m of the ‘bring it’ mentality.”

Leykin’s achievements have earned him a spot in the New York Road Runners, the running club that hosts the marathon each year, sponsored by Tata Consulting Services. Leykin’s position is on the group’s “Team Inspire” — a group of about a dozen New York City Marathon competitors “who represent the magic of running.”

He has also become a much-loved TikToker as he showcases his life as a double amputee.

“It means a lot to me, you know, because my accident, before this, I didn’t want to inspire people. And now I’ve been given the opportunity to do that,” he said.

And he plans to continue pursuing his athletic goals. He wants to complete the Abbott Six — the six longest marathons in the world that, along with New York, include Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin and Chicago. One day, he said, he might even make the Paralympics.

For those who might follow his journey, he hopes they take away a key lesson from his story: “Relentless positive forward momentum.”

“There will be ups and downs… but the trend is what’s important. Focus on the good,” he said. “…And also, take your big problems and break them down into small solutions. And suddenly, your many big problems turn into many, many, many small victories.”

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