One Man’s Leg by Paul Martin

In 1992 Paul Martin was a salesman in training with Lincoln Electric in Cleveland, Ohio. In that year, his life changed after an accident cost him his left leg. His strong interest in sports led him away from business and to the life of athletic competition. His 1995 participation in the New York Marathon led him to believe that “anything I wanted to do, in any field, for any reason, was possible. If I dedicated myself to any reasonable goal, I could ultimately achieve it.” One Man’s Leg is Martin’s account of his life as a disabled athlete.

Martin’s story, and thus his book, reminds me of an autobiography by a rather more famous bicyclist, Lance Armstrong. Both men overcame rocky childhoods and health struggles that would have defeated many people. Both went on to become superior sportsmen. Both rode bikes competitively, among other sports – Martin specializes in triathlon, like the young Armstrong did. But one seemingly minor difference struck me. In his book, Armstrong specifically makes the statement that he became a better man because of his cancer. Martin leaves unstated the fact that had he remained a two-legged salesman in corporate America, he would be less of a person.

Another difference, and one that makes Martin’s book, and himself, somewhat more approachable than Armstrong’s, is that Martin’s sports career was played as an amateur. While he did have sponsors, the sponsorship money was a lot smaller than the millions provided the US Postal and Discovery bike teams. Martin’s decision to turn his back on a stable income to pursue sports will seem crazy to some, and being so hard up you have to sell your bike to pay the rent isn’t a position anyone wants to be in. And yet, the author makes such a life look easy. Or at least easy compared to winning a race on only one leg.

Martin apologizes in his book for his skill with a pen, although no apology is needed. One Man’s Leg is a well-written account of a sporting life well-lived, one so well-lived that the word “disabled” doesn’t apply.

Paul Martin’s website is