TEMPE, AZ — The Rock N Roll Running Series kicks off its Arizona leg this weekend in Tempe. Race organizers say they expect more than 15,000 runners at this year's event.
And at least one of them will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of a day that changed his life.
“For me, it’s just about making the impossible possible,” said Johnny Rojas.
It’s an everyday mindset for a man proving that barriers only exist if we let them.
“I became an amputee at the age of, pretty much one year old,” said Johnny, who lives in Phoenix.
A birth defect as a child forced a difficult decision to amputate his right leg from the knee down. While it allowed him to avoid being in a wheelchair the rest of his life, it was something that brought with it insecurities as he grew up.
“I’d go to PE, I’d get a note because I didn’t want to dress down in shorts because I was embarrassed, I didn’t want people to know that I had a prosthetic, so I hid it a good portion of my life,” said Johnny.
In 2010, he was challenged to come up with a bucket list at work. With few ideas coming to the top of his head, he piggy-backed off a coworker and chose to run in the 2011 Rock N Roll Half Marathon. It ended up being a grueling race that ignited a passion for running he never knew he had.
“This is the one that kind of started my journey,” said Johnny, showing the medal from the race. “I was so tired and sore when I finished but it felt amazing. There was a lot of doubt halfway through about whether I could finish. I just forced myself to keep going. I thought a lot about my family and friends.”
Johnny has now run in well over 100 races, placing in his age group multiple times during the journey of self-discovery.
“Now I’m at the point where I’m at the giving back stage, where I want to see people reach their goals,” said Johnny.
He’s spoken to young kids about overcoming disabilities at speaking events, inspiring able-bodied strangers at the gym with box jumps, and now sharing his story Wednesday as he prepares to add to his tally at the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Tempe this weekend.
“The people who cheer me on or run alongside me inspire me to keep going too,” said Johnny. “I feel like I’ve proven to myself that I can do what I put my mind to.”
He now hopes others will follow his lead.