BILLINGS – Since Day 1, RJ Lowdog has heard the whispers that he might not be good enough. But Lowdog doesn’t pay much attention.
“Some people ask how I do it and I just say, ‘I do it pretty much just like you – push myself, run, work out, get better, stronger,’” Lowdog said before cross country practice on Monday.
The Billings West High Golden Bear makes it sound easy, but the fact is he has always had to battle the odds. Lowdog had both legs amputated below the knees at birth, but it hasn’t stopped him from setting a high bar for himself.
“Well, I want to wrestle pretty much,” he said, “I want to go into the NCAAs, be an Olympian, that’s my future.”
Don’t bet against him. Lowdog finished sixth at the Class AA state wrestling meet earlier this year as a freshman. And this offseason, he added another challenge, taking up cross country.
“I joined to stay in shape for wrestling and compete,” Lowdog said.
And now the story gets really good.
“I wasn’t able to go to Great Falls for cross country (last weekend), so I said, ‘Might as well do the marathon,'” Lowdog said.
That’s right, without any true training, and never having run more than 15 miles at a time, Lowdog entered the 26.2-mile Montana Marathon on Sunday.
“The first 15 miles I was running a pretty good pace, about a 7:30 pace,” he recalled. “Then I started to get tired, started to hurt, so I started to jog for a good extra five more miles, and I had to slow down. I was just thinking to myself, ‘I can do it.’ I was thinking, ‘Just one more mile, one more mile.’”
“Anything you set in front of RJ, no matter what it is, he’ll do it,” said West wrestling coach Jeremy Hernandez. “And if he can’t get it the first time, he’ll get it the second time. That’s just something that he does. For him to go and not train and run a 26-plus mile marathon, is unbelievable.”
Lowdog not only finished, he took first in his 15-18 age group.
“Towards the end I started to get tired, and then when I got done, I was hurting so bad,” Lowdog said. “So I had to stretch, and then after that I went home and got an ice bath.”
“He wrestled a No. 2 seed from across the state first match,” Hernandez recalled of February’s state wrestling tournament. “RJ beat him with a broken hand, so that says a lot about his character. Kids should look up to him for what he does, not the fact that he has no legs. The fact that he is mentally tough and he’s determined to get things done, that’s what people should focus on.”
RJ Lowdog has never run from a challenge. With his newest one, he’s proving to be, at the very least, a step ahead of the competition.